It didn’t start the way Glen Millican had hoped.
But the University of New Mexico men’s golf season is far from finished, and the Lobo coach is confident his bunch has the makings of a good one.
“It’s hard to be as good (as last year), when you had a three-time All-American and another three-time all-conference player,” Millican said. “But we have guys with the ability to be. Maybe they haven’t been in that position yet. Maybe it can happen quickly. Maybe it will be slowly. But we don’t look at this as a rebuilding year. We have talent.”
Today, the Lobos plan to display some of that talent when they open defense of their title – once again – at the 61st annual William H. Tucker Intercollegiate at the UNM Championship Golf Course.
New Mexico has won the past three Tuckers, the first time that’s happened in school history, and has had the individual champion the past three years, as well.
That individual champion, however, is gone – Gavin Green, that three-time All-American. He was one of four standout Lobo seniors to depart after last year’s strong season, including three-time all-Mountain West Conference player Victor Perez and current pros Sam Saunders and Sean Romero.
Thus, there is a lot of mixing and matching for Millican to do with his starting lineup this season.
The Lobos shot poorly in their first two rounds of the season, those at the Golden Gopher Invitational with scores of 308-302 just more than a week ago. But they finished with flare in the third and final round, turning in a sparkling 285 to tie for 11th in the 15-team field in Minneapolis.
“The final round was indicative of what we’re capable of doing,” Millican said. “We beat everyone that round except for OU (Oklahoma, which shot a final-round 282 to win). We had them, too, but kind of let a few shots go at the end. And that round was without (Lobo junior Andrej) Bevins playing well, too.
“We’re weren’t very good for 36 holes. But it’s just one of those deals, where we don’t really know what we have until we let them get out there and go. In practice, it all looks fine. But sometimes you get out there, get a little stressed out and it snowballs. Hopefully it was a lesson learned quickly, and we move on.”
Bevins, who struggled to rounds of 74-81-82 to finish tied for 72nd at 24-over in Minnesota, is anxious to make up for that event in the 54-hole Tucker. The first 36 holes will be played today, beginning at 8 a.m. The final round is at 8 a.m. Saturday. All three rounds will have a shotgun start, meaning all players start at the same time on different holes.
“I have a lot of confidence playing on this course, and in this tournament,” said Bevins, who tied Green for first place two years ago before losing a playoff, then finished seventh last year as a sophomore.
“It was very disappointing for everybody on our team (in Minneapolis), but it was nice to see everyone play well the last day – although I didn’t – but we needed to get a good round under our belts. I’ve had a good record here, so my confidence is really high.”
The competition, as always, should be outstanding at the Tucker. Besides UNM, the 16-team field is Arizona, Bowling Green, Colorado, Colorado State, Denver, Louisiana Tech, New Mexico State, Nevada, TCU, UTEP, Texas, UNLV, San Diego, San Diego State and Wyoming.
But like the Lobos, many of the teams in the field also lost a number of star seniors and are looking for new standouts to step up.
Besides Bevins, the Lobos’ lineup is sophomore Andre Garcia, senior Joseph Abella, sophomore Gustavo Morantes and freshman Sam Kim.
The top four scores each round count toward the team total.
The Lobos also have a handful of players – including freshman Sean Carlon, a Hope Christian graduate – who will compete as individuals. Their scores don’t count toward the team total, but they are eligible for medalist honors.
Garcia is making his debut as part of the starting five, and said finishing in the top 20 last year as an individual “gives me a good experience and confidence. Being in the (starting lineup) adds a little more pressure, but not really that much. I’m just really excited about this tournament.”