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NCAA golf: Lobos looking to plant a seed

The University of New Mexico men’s golf team played exactly to its seed during Monday’s opening day of the NCAA Albuquerque Regional.

And far worse than its expectations.

To a man, the Lobos say that will change today in the second round of the 54-hole event at the University of New Mexico Championship Golf Course.

“It was pretty bad today, but we’re still right there and we still have a chance,” said UNM sophomore Gustavo Morantes, who shot a 4-over 76. “We’re not happy with it, but we got the bad round out of the way. We just have to be patient.”

The seventh-seeded Lobos shot a 6-over 294 during a brutally windy day, and are eight shots behind first-place Arizona State — which was the only team (286/-2) to break par.

South Florida is second at 289 with Texas Tech and top-seeded Southern California tied for third at 291.  TCU (292) is fifth and San Diego State (293) sixth in the 14-team field.

The top five schools advance to the NCAA Championships at the end of the month in Eugene, Ore.

ASU’s Jon Rahm, the world’s top-ranked amateur, and Rigel Fernandes of South Florida share the individual lead at 3-under 69.

“We’re still in position as far as the tournament goes,” said UNM coach Glen Millican. “We just didn’t play our best golf today, but nobody lost their composure or freaked out.

“We made a lot of mistakes. If you’re gonna do that, you have to make a ton of birdies to overcome that. We need to make more birdies (today) or less mistakes. I don’t care which one it is, but we need to do one of the two.”

The Lobos had a pair of bogies on No. 17, a relatively easy par 4. They also struggled on the par 5 final hole, which played much tougher than usual because of the conditions.

“There was  a lot of wind, but we play in wind all the time,” Millican said. “It did make 18 pretty tough, but the wind isn’t an excuse for the mistakes we made.”

The Lobos were led by junior Andrej Bevins (72) and the freshmen duo of Sean Carlon (73) and Sam Kim (73). Sophomore Andre Garcia had an 82. The top four scores each round count for the team total.

“I feel pretty good about the way I struck the ball today, but I left some shots out there,” said Bevins, who has twice won the William H. Tucker Intercollegiate on the course. “We all had a rough time on the back nine. But we’re a quick-learning team, and I think we will learn from this.”

Bevins shot 3-under 33 on the front side but made double bogey on 10 and had bogeys on 11 and 13 to go 1-over. He made back-to-back birdies at 14 and 15 before a bogey on 17.

Carlon, a three-time state champion at Hope Christian, was also under par on the front side (35) but had two bogeys on the back, including on the final hole.

“That was a tough way to end, but I feel pretty good overall,” he said. “I was nervous on the first tee, but after that first tee shot I felt really comfortable. It was good to get the experience. I think we’re going to be able to make a run at this.”

Rahm, who just graduated from ASU with a degree in communications, won the Pac-12 title. He played on the course two years ago and shared the lead heading into the final round of the Tucker, but didn’t win the event.

Arizona State started the day on the back side, and Rahm said the wind really increased by the time he had reached the front nine.

“It certainly was tough at times, especially our front nine when it picked up,” he said. “Holes 5, 6, 7, and 8 are very tough holes. I played that stretch 1-over par, which wasn’t too bad, so I felt good about that.

“It wasn’t my best ball-striking, but I was able to put it in play which is key on this course.”

USC’s Sean Crocker and TCU’s Ryan Brooks share third at 2 under while five are tied for fifth at 1-under. Bevins is in a six-way tie for 10th.

Texas A&M, coached by former Lobo coach J.T. Higgins, is in eighth place at 296 in the team standings with Liberty at 297. A&M’s assistant coach is Brian Kortan, a former Lobo star golfer and assistant coach.