New Mexico ends Cal's perfect season in Arizona
• • •
ORO VALLEY, Ariz. – New Mexico has a solid group of talented seniors who have helped lift the Lobos to the No. 4 spot in the final fall Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings.
But it was a pair of young sophomores who came through in the clutch Tuesday when New Mexico captured the 33rd Arizona Intercollegiate title at the Golf Club at Vistoso near Tucson.
Victor Perez birdied three of his last four holes and Gavin Green completed his final five holes with three birdies as the Lobos closed with a 3-under-par 281 for an 8-under 844 total.
After finishing the fall campaign with runners-up at Isleworth and Royal Oaks, New Mexico opened the spring with season victory No. 2, after winning its own Tucker Invitational.
The Lobos have competed in this tournament just about every year since its 1981 inception and along the way brought with them some talented teams. But this marks only the school’s second victory here in the desert and first since 2005.
“You never know what to expect after a three-month break, so this definitely is an awesome way to start the spring,” Lobos coach Glen Millican said. “This is a hard tournament to win. It was close; it was exciting. I’m proud of our guys. They played solid and hung in there the whole way.”
New Mexico’s victory brought to a halt California’s perfect season. While the top-ranked Bears were in the thick of the title chase from the start, they couldn’t pull it out in the end, even by boasting tournament co-medalists Michael Kim and Joel Stalter.
The Bears closed with a 2-under 282 for a 5-under 847 and finished third, one shot behind TCU, which led on and off for most of the tournament, but were stung at the end by a disqualification.
“I’m disappointed we didn’t win, but my hat is off to New Mexico,” Cal coach Steve Desimone said. “They really played well, especially down the stretch. Now, for us, we’ll just have to regroup and get ready for our next tournament in a couple of weeks, the John Burns in Hawaii.
“On the other hand, this was maybe a very good wakeup call for us,” Desimone said. “If it was going to happen, this was a good time. If you’re going to have a tough tournament, better it be now than in May or June. We made some mistakes this week we didn’t make in the fall. We need to fix those and just keep improving.”
TCU coach Bill Montigel said coming into the Arizona Intercollegiate he really didn’t know what to expect from his team because the Horned Frogs played just one full-field event in the fall.
Obviously he didn’t expect things to end the way they did.
TCU was the leader after the first two rounds, and when the Horned Frogs finished play in the final round it appeared they would maintain that position and win the tournament. In adding the four apparent counting scores, Montigel figured his team shot a 3-under 281 for a 9-under 843 total.
But when Paul Barjon's score was posted as a 2-under 69, the freshman came to Montigel and said it was a mistake and he actually shot 70. The TCU coach reported the discrepancy to scoring officials, and after another check of the scorecard, that was in fact the case.
At the par-4, 11th hole, Barjon’s marker entered a 4 when Barjon actually made a 5. There was only one option: disqualification.
If Barjon had caught the mistake and signed for a 70, TCU would have tied New Mexico for the title. But the Horned Frogs had to count a 73, leaving them in second place, two strokes behind.
“It’s tough,” Montigel said afterwards. “But it's happened in college golf before and will probably happen again. I just hope it never happens to us again. We just have to shake it off and move on. We still have a lot of golf to play this spring. Hopefully this is something the whole team can learn from.”
Added Millican, “It’s unfortunate to see something like that happen. TCU played great this week. I feel bad for them, but it’s part of the game we all play.”
In sharing the individual title, Kim, a sophomore, and Stalter, a junior, finished at 9-under-par 204, three strokes better than TCU’s Julien Brun, New Mexico’s James Erkenbeck ad Arizona State’s Max Rottluff.
Kim closed with a 6-under 65, equaling the tournament’s best round with was posted by Stalter in the first 18 holes. Beginning on the third hole in the shotgun start, Kim, who played bogey-free golf, notched birdies at Nos. 3, 4, 11, 14, 16 and 18.
It was his second victory in as many starts, coming on the heels of his win at Isleworth to close out the fall. Thus far, he is 6-for-6 in top-10 finishes.
Stalter’s round was a bit more hectic. Starting on the second hole, he birdied Nos. 2, 3 and 7 and built a three-shot lead. But he made bogey at 13 and then double bogey at the par-3 15th, before righting things with a birdie at 16.
For Stalter, it was his first collegiate victory. In three fall starts, he had two top 10s, including a T-3 at Isleworth. His best showing last season was a second place.
Rounding out the top seven teams in the 15-team field were Arizona State, fourth a 1-under 851, host Arizona (862), Liberty (867) and Kennesaw State (871).