For the second year in a row, a New Mexico State golfer upstaged the locals at the William H. Tucker tournament at the UNM Championship Course.
Garrison Smith shot a 5-under 67 Saturday to pull into third place with a three-round total of 8-under 208, one stroke better than New Mexico’s Albert Boneta in fourth.
A year ago, it was St. Pius alum Aidan Thomas stealing the headlines by taking individual honors for the Aggies. This year, the former Sartan had trouble getting going.
But Smith, who chipped in for birdies on two different holes, did enough to uphold NMSU pride.
“Anytime we can beat our rivals, it’s a good day,” Smith said. “Our coaches during our team meetings, a lot of the stuff we talk about is we want to win and a big part of it is beating our rivals.”
It is something that the New Mexico State coaching staff stresses, he said.
“Mike (McGilton) our assistant, before every single tournament, he tells us we have to beat the guys who are down the road from us,” Smith said. “People are watching us to see if we beat the Lobos or the Miners every single time we play them. It’s what gets people to watch and gets people excited.”
The Lobos, though, had the last laugh as a team, finishing second overall in the 19-team event with an 8-under 856, eight strokes behind team winner San Diego State. New Mexico State finished sixth.
To complete the Mountain West domination of the tournament, UNLV finished third, two strokes behind UNM.
New Mexico had actually surged into the lead early in Saturday’s round before the Aztecs came back strong.
“They came out ready to go,” Lobos coach Glen Millican said of his squad. “They got in the mix right away with a great start. We capitalized on a couple of mistakes that San Diego State made and then we made some of our own, and then it was a back-and-forth thing. But San Diego State played the closing holes a little better than we did.”
Boneta, who admitted being in individual contention coming into the day kind of got to him, finished his day with an even-par 72, as did teammate Bastien Amat, to lead the Lobos.
“I think I was distracted by being close,” Boneta said. “I was trying to go for birdies and I was pressing hard overall. So it was hard to make shots. I think I learned that if I’m doing good, then the birdies will come. I have to stay patient and play my game.”
Amat said he started off struggling, dropping a couple of strokes early before rallying to get it back to even.
“I just hung in there,” he said. “I knew we were close and I was just trying to help the team the best I could, trying to do some good things. It was great for us to be able to stay in there and beat UNLV.”
Taking second meant that the Lobos beat 17 other teams, Millican said, which is definitely a strong takeaway from the tournament.
“Obviously, we want to win the golf tournament, but in the end, we were playing 18 other teams head to head. Beating BYU, TCU, New Mexico State, those are some very good teams that we were able to get wins over.”