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Golf: Lobos return to the scene of crushing defeat in regionals

It’s time to grab a little hair of the dog – make that The Monster – that bit ya for the University of New Mexico men’s golf team.

Sure, the Lobos have seen The Monster – the nickname of the UNM Championship Golf Course – before. Way more than plenty of times, in fact.

But now is time for a little payback.

“What happened at the end of last season will motivate us all year,” junior Gustavo Morantes said of the team’ gut-wrenching and heartbreaking finish at May’s NCAA Albuquerque Regional on the Lobos’ home course. “We’ve been working all summer to fix the little things that hurt us at the end.”

Not that it was all The Monster’s doing the last go-around. The Lobos simply faded down the stretch in the 14-team field and tied for seventh, three shots out of a playoff for fifth. The top five teams advanced to the NCAA Championships.

“Losing like that is a huge motivation,” said UNM senior Andrej Bevins, who has twice won the individual title at the William H. Tucker Intercollegiate, which the Lobos will host for the 62nd time on Friday and Saturday. “It hurt quite a bit. We’re anxious to get back on that course for another tournament. We play it all the time, but it’s different when it’s a tournament.

“I think this is really going to be a great season. All the guys on the team are good friends. We have great perspectives. We’ve all grown mentally. And we definitely don’t want the same ending to the season as last year. We’re doing everything we can to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

Last season didn’t start well for UNM – outside of its host event. The Lobos won the 54-hole Tucker team title for the fourth straight year, tying the mark set by Houston nearly 50 years ago.

The Lobos will try to break that record this year. The first two rounds are Friday, starting with a 7:30 a.m. shotgun (all players tee off at same time on different holes). The final round is Saturday at 7:30 a.m. with another shotgun.

The Lobos had some sensational finishes in the spring to qualify for regionals. Then came that regional.

On their home course.

“It definitely was not the way the guys wanted to end the season,” said UNM coach Glen Millican, in his 16th year as head coach, “but the guys and I haven’t really discussed it. I just know they want to get back out there and get another shot.

“We have a lot of experience, and did pretty well in Minnesota (two weeks ago) in our first tournament, finishing fifth (in a strong 13-team field). We felt we could have done even better there. But this group learned a lot last spring, the way they all battled back. It gives us a lot of confidence and a lot to work with.”

The field includes Arizona, BYU, Colorado, Colorado State, Denver, Louisiana Tech, New Mexico State, Pepperdine, San Diego, San Diego State, UTEP, UNLV, Washington, Washington State and Wyoming.

The Lobos’ starting five is:

⋄  Senior Andrej Bevins, who has twice won individual titles at the Tucker.

⋄  Junior Gustavo Morantes, who had a trio of top-three finishes – including at the Tucker – last season and was named all-Mountain West Conference.

⋄  Junior (redshirt) Andre Garcia, who has improved each season and worked his way into the starting lineup last spring. He was the top Lobo in Minnesota this season at 3 over in the 54-hole event.

⋄  Sophomore Sean Carlon, the Hope Christian High graduate had his ups and downs as a freshman and struggled to an 83 in his opening round at Minnesota, but came back strong with rounds of 73-72.

⋄  Sophomore Sam Kim, who improved as last season progressed and shot 7 under at the MWC Championships.

The Top four scores count toward each round’s team total.

The Lobos also have four individuals playing in this weekend’s event. Their scores will not count for the team, but do in the battle for medalist.

“It’s great to play at home, because it gives us the opportunity to play nine guys,” Millican said. “They all get to chance to feel the tournament atmosphere, so it’s a good test for them. It gives them experience and could help them break into the lineup down the road.”

The individuals are freshman Sam Dickey, junior (redshirt) Ben Tolsma, sophomore Mark McGrath and sophomore (redshirt) Isaac Alderete.