Men's Golf Takes Second-Straight Mountain West Championship
TUCSON, Ariz. — The University of New Mexico men’s golf team successfully defended its title on Saturday, claiming the 2021 Mountain West Championship after a playoff. The victory marks a MW-record eighth for the Lobos, all of which have been under head coach Glen Millican.
The championship, which was just the second in Mountain West history to go to a playoff, also marks the sixth this season for the Lobo athletic department.
New Mexico broke the Mountain West record for lowest 18-hole scoring total with its impressive round-three total of 269 (-19). The previous record was 271, which was last achieved by UNLV in 2009 and 2010, as well as Nevada in Saturday’s round.
The Lobos entered round three in fifth in a tight race for the title, just six strokes behind the leader. The top three scorers for UNM played nearly the entire third round without a single bogey before the trio combined for two bogeys and a double bogey on the 18th hole.
“It was pretty much flawless golf until hole 18, but hole 18 is typically the hardest hole here on the PGA tour,” head coach Glen Millican said. “No matter how good you are playing on this course, you still have to play 18. Luckily we played well enough that we could absorb some mistakes there.”
After tying for the championship, the Lobos had to play hole 18 once more to clinch the title, which they won over Nevada +3 to +2.
“For our team to go back out there [on hole 18] for the playoff and play that hole again, our guys really answered that challenge,” Millican said.
Junior Sam Choi tied for first individually with a score of 209 (-7) and entered a four-player playoff. Choi was one of three competitors to advance past the first hole, but came up one stroke short on the second just behind his high school teammate Puwit Anupansuebsai of San Diego State.
Choi opened the tournament with a score of 74 (+2) before chopping off five strokes in round two (69, -3). In the third round, Choi shaved off three more strokes for a total of 66 (-6).
Three Lobos finished in the top 12 of the competition as sophomore Albert Boneta finished just one stroke behind Choi, tied for fifth with a final score of 210 (-6). He was tied for 16th (+1) headed into the final round before posting a tournament-low 65 in round three to jump up on the leaderboard.
Just two strokes behind was freshman Bastien Amat who carded an even 72 in both rounds one and two before cutting off four strokes for a 68 (-4) in round three.
In the playoff for the championship, it was Boneta and Amat who birdied on hole 18 to clinch the championship for the Lobos.
Freshman Matthew Watkins tied for 19th overall (215, -1) after shooting his best score in round three, 70 (-2) while junior Brandon Shong rounded out the top five for UNM with a final score of 218 (+2).
As a team, the Lobos carded the most birdies overall with 60, including 31 in the final round alone. Boneta led UNM in the third round with eight birdies. He totaled 16 on the tournament to tie for first overall in the category.
The Lobos battled in a playoff of the notoriously complicated hole #18 with the Nevada Wolf Pack to ultimately claim the championship. As part of the MW playoff format, all five members of each team compete and the lowest four scores from each team are counted toward the team total.
The Lobos claimed the win after just one hole following three bogeys from each team. Amat and Boneta registered birdies on the par-5 hole to give the Lobos the one-stroke victory (+3, +2).
Choi was one of four players to enter the playoff on hole #18 and was one of just three to emerge from the first playoff hole with pars. He was joined by Boise State’s Hugo Townsend and his former high school teammate Anupansuebsai on the second playoff hole, which was hole #10.
Choi, who registered a pair of birdies on hole #10 throughout the tournament, landed his first shot just off the cart path. He followed it up with a shot in the bunker to the right of the green. Choi was one of two golfers to put his second shot in the bunker.
He chipped the ball past the hole to the edge of the green and immediately took his fourth shot on the away ball. Despite the rough start, Choi had an opportunity for a long putt for birdie, but his fourth shot just missed. Boise State’s Townsend also missed a short putt for birdie. SDSU’s Anupansuebsai sunk his putt for birdie for the win.
The Lobos will next take on the NCAA Regionals at a site to be determined. The Golf Channel will broadcast the NCAA Selection Show live on Wednesday, May 5 at 12 p.m. MT.
Stay tuned to GoLobos.com and follow @UNMLoboMGOLF on Twitter for the latest schedule updates.