The latest can certainly seem like the greatest.
In the case of University of New Mexico golfer Gavin Kyle Green, that very well could be the case.
Green – the guy with the fitting last name for the sport at which he excels – is anything but green when it comes to winning.
The senior from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia has put his name in the Lobo record books, repeatedly, during his four collegiate seasons and on Wednesday was named one of 10 semifinalists for the Ben Hogan Award – the most prestigious award in men’s collegiate golf.
Rated No. 9 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking, Green closes his Lobo career in the next few weeks. UNM has a pair of match-play events on Saturday in Lubbock, Texas, then it’s on to the Mountain West Conference Championships, almost assuredly the NCAA Regionals and very likely the NCAA Championships.
By the time June rolls around, the Malaysian Sensation will most likely be rolling in putts as a professional – and very well be considered the greatest Lobo golfer ever.
“He’s certainly in that conversation,” said John Fields, a former Lobo player and golf coach and the current coach at Texas, which won the 2012 NCAA title. “If it’s just college you’re talking about, he’s right there. There’s Tim Herron, Spencer Levin, Brad Bryant, Tommy Armour III and Gavin. He has such great strength and power and is so good around the greens.”
Dwaine Knight, another former Lobo player and long-time Lobos coach – who, like Fields, has led his current school (UNLV) to a national championship – says Green “is without a doubt the best player in the conference. As far as the best Lobo ever, there have been so many over time, and in so many in different eras. There are guys like Tommy Armour, Curt Byrum, Tim Herron; guys who were not just great in college but at the next level as well. But Gavin is right with those guys so far.”
There are many ways to determine the greatest Lobo. If you consider pro careers, the aforementioned stars are all in the mix, along with guys like PGA Tour veteran Kent Jones and current PGA Tour pro Charlie Beljan.
Still, even if you’re just talking about college, there are many ways to rank the contenders.
“There are a lot of angles to it,” said former Lobo player and assistant coach Glen Millican, now in his 14th season as UNM’s head coach. “Tim was an All-American three times, twice on the first team (of 10 players). Gavin has been All-American third team and second team, and will probably be first team this year. I think James Erkenbeck (2009-13) is the only other Lobo to make first team.
“Gavin is second in career stroke average behind Spence, and he has the most tournament wins. He is definitely right there.”
Green’s 71.84 career stroke average trails only Levin’s at 70.20. But Levin transferred from UCLA, where his freshman average of 73.03 doesn’t count in his UNM total. Levin played just two seasons for the Lobos.
Beljan won three events at UNM and has the school’s fourth best average at 72.36.
Armour, who along with Paul Simson (1973) owns the highest individual finish at the NCAA Tournament in Lobo history – tied for 5th – played just two seasons at UNM, and in only four rounds one of those years.
According to UNM records, Mitch Mooney (1976-79) is the only other Lobo to make three All-America teams, but it doesn’t listed which teams – first, second, third or honorable mention. In 1978, Mooney was All-America, yet only played 10 rounds. He was also All-America in 1979, but didn’t make all-Western Athletic Conference that year.
Green said he wasn’t aware of school records during his first three years at New Mexico, but it was hard to avoid the talk when he was tied with Herron for most career wins at five entering this season.
“After I won my second (William H.) Tucker (Intercollegiate) as a junior, I wanted to go after a third this year and found out that nobody had ever done that before,” Green said. “So I did want that record.”
He got it last fall at the prestigious annual event held at the UNM Championship Golf Course. He has picked up two more victories this spring, most recently at the Hootie’s at Bulls Bay in Awendaw, S.C., on March 31.
That’s eight titles – besting the school record by a whopping three wins. And eight might not be enough.
“This last month obviously means a lot, because it’s towards the end,” said Green, the 21-year-old son of Gary and Vivienne Green. “But I’m not trying to think about any one individual event. I’m more concerned with how I’m going to play and how the team is going to perform.”
Green also has one brother, 16-year-old Galven, who has already given a verbal commitment to play for New Mexico.
The strapping 6-foot-1, 215-pound Gavin, whose major is liberal arts, said he will turn pro shortly after the season but still will take three classes this summer to get his degree.
“I will walk with my graduating class in May and will definitely finish my degree before I decide which way to go for a pro career,” he said.
“Right now, I’m just enjoying the time I have left. I don’t think I could have asked for anything better than coming here: the environment, the team. I wouldn’t have had anything close to this if I would have stayed back home.
“It’s been great.”
And so has Green. Maybe the greatest.