Lobo Classics: 2019 Men’s Golf Surges to Claim 7th MW Championship
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – Since the inception of the Mountain West prior to the 1999-2000 academic year, one of the constants within men’s golf at the conference level has been the University of New Mexico and its prominence near or at the top of the league.
The most-recent completed men’s golf season of 2018-19 served as the 20th season of golf within the Mountain West. In the 19 seasons prior, the UNM men’s golf team had won six MW Championships and had finished runner-up three other times; giving the Lobos nearly half of the league’s existence worth of conference superiority.
A majority of that success for the Lobos came in the early part of New Mexico alum and head coach Glen Millican’s tenure at UNM. After guiding the Lobos to a runner-up finish in his first season in 2002, Millican and the Lobos claimed their first-ever MW Championship the following season. That initial MW Championship in 2003 sparked what ended up being a four-peat for the program with title wins in 2004, 2005 and 2006.
The next six seasons did not yield a championship or a runner-up finish, but in 2013, the Lobos reclaimed the position at the top of the conference with a title victory that season. The Lobos then repeated the following season in 2014 for the program’s sixth championship.
After a tightly-contested 2015 MW Championship Tournament in which the Lobos were eight strokes back of first and finished fourth, UNM was just three shots back in 2016 and finished runner-up to UNLV, which had won its first title since 2002. UNLV would go on to win the next two MW Championships to give the Rebels a three-peat (the league’s second-longest championship run since the Lobos’ aforementioned four-peat).
That Rebel run, however, came to a resounding halt in 2019 as the Lobos once more ascended to the top of the Mountain West and, in turn, provide us with our latest installment of Lobo Classics.
Prior to the start of the 2019 Mountain West Championship Tournament, there was no real signature moment that the Lobo men’s golf team collectively could hang their hats on. As a team, the Lobos best finish saw them place fifth at their home event, the William H. Tucker Intercollegiate back in late September of 2018.
Individually, the Lobos were led throughout the year by senior Sean Carlon as he was the top finisher in five of the team’s 10 events played. Three of those top individual finishes for Carlon saw him place in the Top-10, but the best individual finish by a Lobo leading into the MW Championships was a tie for third place turned in by freshman Sam Choi in the PING Cougar Classic just days before the MW Tournament.
With how the season had played out to that point, the Lobos were entering the Mountain West Championship Tournament knowing that they needed to win in order to advance to the NCAA Regionals. And with all of that on the line for this one tournament, Coach Millican, a four-time MW Coach of the Year at that point, rolled the dice on a decision that ultimately payed major dividends as he elected to place three freshmen (Ignacio Arcaya, Roy Choi and Sam Choi) into the lineup to play alongside senior Carlon and sophomore Galven Green.
Playing at the par-72, 7,194-yard OMNI Tucson National Golf Course, the Lobos got off to a tremendous start in opening round as they ended the first 18 holes tied for the lead with Colorado State. In that opening round, the Lobos shot nine-under (279) as a team and were led by Carlon. Carlon would register a first-round score of five-under (67) and tied for the lead of the individual field thanks to six birdies and an eagle on Hole No. 2. Green and both Roy and Sam Choi also shot under par to help set the Lobo score for the first round.
In the second round, the Lobos dropped a stroke from their team total, but found themselves in third place after rounds of 274 by UNLV and 275 by Colorado State. The four-stroke improvement by Colorado State provided the Rams some breathing room from the Lobos and UNLV, who after their second round jumped from a tie for fifth to second place, just two strokes back of CSU overall.
For the Lobos, that slight drop in the team standings felt like it was attributed more to what Colorado State and UNLV did in the second round rather than what UNM did not do. In fact, the Lobos received a pair of quality performances from Carlon and Green.
After helping pace the field through 18 holes, Carlon gave just one stroke back in round two, but found himself out in front of the field by himself with a two-round score of nine-under (135). Hot on his heels, however, was Green, who vaulted 11 spots up the leaderboard after the second round as he carded an impressive six-under (66). Green’s big second round put him one stroke behind Carlon heading into the third and final round.
In the decisive third round, the Lobos put together one of the best rounds of the tournament tying UNLV’s low score of 274 from round two. Fueling that low round was the remarkable 18 holes turned in by Sam Choi as he seemingly came out of nowhere and carded a six-under (66). In the previous two rounds, S. Choi had turned in scores of 71 and 73. In addition to S. Choi’s monster final round, both Carlon and Green remained consistent with Carlon carding a four-under (68) and Green carding a five-under (67).
Combined, that third-round team score slingshot the Lobos to the top of the team leaderboard and was low enough to fend off Colorado State, which went on to finish runner-up and three strokes back. That score also brought the Lobos to a tournament total of 33-under (831) and set a new Mountain West Championship record for the lowest 54-hole team score.
While the ultimate team victory was special in its own right, the battle for the individual title between Carlon and Green added to the lore of that weekend.
As noted earlier, Carlon and Green entered the final round first and second on the individual leaderboard, respectively, with Carlon holding a one-stroke lead over Green.
Both golfers started that final round on Hole No. 1 with Green teeing off first at 10:10 a.m. and Carlon 10 minutes later at 10:20 a.m.
Through the first six holes of the final round, the Lobo duo matched each other score for score as they both made par on holes 1, 3, 4 and 6 and made birdie on holes 2 and 5. Hole No. 7 saw the first bit of separation between the two as Green parred the par-3 while Carlon made bogey.
Now Carlon and Green were tied with one another on the leaderboard. At the turn, Green held a two-strike lead for the round and was one-up on the tournament as he birdied holes 8 and 9. Carlon ended the front-9 with a birdie on 8 and a par on 9.
Two holes into the back-9, Green and Carlon were tied once more for the round as Carlon made birdie on 10 and par on 11, while Green made par on 10 and bogey on 11. That two-hole spurt put Carlon back in the overall lead by a stroke over Green.
On Hole No. 13, Green made birdie to once more pull even with Carlon, who moments later saved par on the same hole. Carlon and Green then made par on Hole No. 14. On Hole No. 15, Green birdied while Carlon made par, once more swinging the overall individual lead to Green.
Green went on to make par on the final three holes to finish with a third-round score of five-under (67). Still two strokes back of Green for the round and one back for the tournament, Carlon did something he hadn’t done all tournament long to that point, make birdie on the par-3 Hole No. 17. That birdie once again knotted the two Lobos’ overall tournament scores and, thanks to a par by Carlon on 18, the two teammates would assure the Lobo men’s golf program its sixth individual conference champion as they tied one another at 13-under (203).
The Lobo-only sudden death affair would go three holes before Green secured the win on a five-foot putt. Green’s win puts him alongside his brother Gavin (who won the individual crown in 2014), Travis Ross (2011), Steve Saunders (2009), Jay Choi (2006) and Michael Letzig (2003) as Lobos to win the MW Individual Golf Championship.
Green, Carlon and the rest of the Lobos would go on to place 12th at the NCAA Louisville Regional a couple of weeks after winning the MW. In the 15th NCAA Regional Tournament appearance under Coach Millican, Carlon continued to play well and placed in a tie for 6th individually.
About Lobo Classics
The goal of the “Lobo Classics” series is to highlight some of the greatest moments in the history of UNM Athletics. These types of moments can consist of specific games, individual performances, record-breaking achievements or even entire championship seasons. It is our intention that during this period of uncertainty, we can bring some joy and happiness to our unwaveringly loyal fans that make up Lobo Nation!
As part of this endeavor, Lobo Athletics wants to make this an interactive project and are opening up for suggestions from Lobo fans everywhere. Fans can make suggestions that they would like to see highlighted in “Lobo Classics” by tweeting to @UNMLobos and using the hashtag #LoboClassics. Fans can also submit suggestions through email: email@example.com.