About 12 years ago, a young Sean Carlon walked around UNM Championship Golf Course to watch golfers and also to see Brian Kortan, considered a family friend.
When it came time for the annual Tucker Intercollegiate, there were always some of the nation’s best golfers competing. Kortan, who had played for UNM, was beginning his coaching career as an assistant with the Lobos. He’s now the head coach at Texas A&M.
Carlon always had a strong love for the game as a child, yet he also was fascinated and infatuated by the thought of coaching.
When he played for the Lobos after winning three state prep titles at Hope Christian, Carlon observed Lobos coach Glen Millican and then-assistant Chris Massoletti, who is now an assistant for the men’s golf team at Cal.
“I always asked a lot of questions,” Carlon said. “I was always into what they were doing, what decisions they made regarding a golf shot. I just enjoyed it.”
This past summer, the timing worked out near perfectly for Carlon to return to his alma mater as an assistant coach. Carlon played professionally for three years, and the grind proved taxing. He wanted to get into coaching. Initially, he was set to become a graduate assistant at Central Arkansas. Within two days of accepting that position, Carlon said he found out that former UNM assistant Gustavo Morantes was leaving the Lobos to work at the University of Houston.
Not long after that, Millican offered Carlon an opportunity to return.
“Sean is really special to our program,” said Millican, a former UNM player who enters his 22nd year as coach of the Lobos. “He’s really special to me. He’s really special to the whole Albuquerque golf community. … I’m fortunate to have him here. It’s been a seamless transition.”
Carlon, 25, returns to the Tucker Intercollegiate in a different role when, in its 67th year, the two-day, three-round event tees off Friday.
The tourney also features New Mexico State senior and defending champion Aidan Thomas, a former St. Pius standout, and the Aggies along with BYU, Colorado, Denver, Hawaii, Loyola Marymount, Nebraska, North Texas, Northern Illinois, San Francisco, San Diego, San Diego State, TCU, UNLV, Utah Tech (formerly Dixie State), UTEP, UTSA, Wyoming and two individuals from Texas.
New Mexico has won the event 14 times, most recently in 2019. Last year, UNM was the runner-up to BYU.
Carlon played at UNM from 2016-19, earning All-Mountain West and All-Region honors as a senior. Millican praised Carlon for his leadership as a senior. After his senior year, Carlon was a volunteer assistant in the fall of 2019. In 2020, Carlon put all his time into playing as a pro. But it was difficult and, away from home, lonely.
He said he would confide in Sam Saunders, also a former Lobo who has conditional status on the Korn Ferry Tour and whom Carlon views as “a big brother.”
“You’re away from your family,” Carlon said. “You’re away from your friends. You go to places you’ve never seen. But honestly, the experiences, I wouldn’t give them up for anything. They were great. I’ll miss playing pro golf for sure. But it’s very time consuming. A very difficult process.”
He knows that coaching at UNM will have a new set of challenges. This season, the Lobos are experiencing life after Sam Choi, a three-time All-American who transferred to Pepperdine.
They remain talented with a lineup that includes Albert Boneta, Bastien Amat, Carson Herron, Brandon Shong and Matthew Watkins.
“He brings a lot of experience playing as a Lobo on this team, and he’s been a great addition,” said Herron, a sophomore and the son of PGA Champions Tour pro Tim Herron, also a former Lobo. “I’m looking forward to a lot more time with Sean on and off the course.”
Carson Herron was named MWC Freshman of the Year in 2021-22. He’s among a group of underclassmen that provide energy on the team, Millican said.
The UNM head coach says the team has “an exciting dynamic” with young golfers like Herron and leadership from experienced players such as Boneta and Shong, both seniors.
Boneta, coming off a wrist injury last year, was the low man for the Lobos in the season-opening Maui Jim Intercollegiate at Mirabel Golf Club, which concluded on Sept. 11 in Scottsdale, Arizona. He shot 4-under par-206 (68-67-71) to finish tied for 29th and helped UNM tie for 12th out of 16 teams.
The New Mexico State lineup, in addition to the 83rd-ranked Thomas, will include UNM transfer Alexandre Bauduin, Garrison Smith, Alvaro Morales and Javier Delgadillo. NMSU tied for third at the Gene Miranda Falcon Invitational, hosted by Air Force, in its first fall competition.