May 30, 2013 (Updated 10:04 p.m. MT)
TEAM RESULTS: 1. California -16 (277-272-275=824), 2. Georgia Tech,-10 (274-274-282=-830, T3. Alabama -7 (275-276-282=833) and Texas (279-271-283=833), 5. Illinois -5 (276-281-278=835); T6 UNM +2 (292-274-276=842), UNLV (286-284-272=842), Arizona State (270-288-284=842) and Texas A&M (285-275-282=842). Texas A&M eliminated in playoff.
MATCH PLAY TODAY: 6-seed UNM vs. 3-seed Alabama
Victor Perez vs. Bobby Wyatt (10:15 a.m. MT)
Gavin Green vs. Trey Mullinax (10:24 a.m.)
Benjamin Bauch vs. Scott Strohmeyer (10:33 a.m.)
John Catlin vs. Cory Whitsett (10:42 a.m.)
James Erkenbeck vs. Justin Thomas (10:51 a.m.)
ALPHARETTA, Ga. -- There's a reason it's called stroke play, but the University of New Mexico men's golf team is still alive and kicking.
The Lobos endured a heart-stopping, four-team playoff on the final day of stroke play at the NCAA Championship and advanced to Friday's eight-team match play round. They will be the No. 6 seed and play Alabama today, beginning at 10:15 a.m.
The finish capped a wild 12-hour day for the Lobos and an unlikely result for a team that was tied for 27th among the 30 teams in the NCAA field after Tuesday's first round.
"I can't ... I can't even explain what I'm feeling right now," senior James Erkenbeck said, pausing to find his words. "I'm just really excited we get to play another day. It's a special, special day for UNM golf."
Four teams were tied for sixth place after the Thursday's round. UNM, UNLV, Arizona State and Texas A&M then went back out on the course, each team's five players playing one hole with four scores counting, to determine the three teams that would advance.
Texas A&M finished a stroke behind the other three teams and was eliminated.
"No matter whether you play great the first two days or not, to finish in the top eight is hard to do, really hard to do," coach Glen Millican said. "All the teams are fighting for their lives and playing great golf. It's just really overwhelming that our guys did enough over three days to keep going."
UNM, which took part in the 15-team morning play, shot a 4-under 276 Thursday and finished at 2-over 842 (292-274-276) after the 54 holes and three days. The Lobos then had to wait for five hours and find out whether their score would be good enough to qualify for the top eight.
The Lobos, which started the day tied for 15th, and UNLV (286-284-272=842) both were in the clubhouse at 2-over and in 12th place when the 15-team afternoon field started.
UNM players and coaches then embarked on the longest scoreboard-watching excursion of their lives, as team after team ahead of the Lobos continued to lose strokes to par.
"It was crazy; it was the most nerve-wracking thing ever," sophomore Gavin Green said. "It was just nuts, to be honest with you. We were just sitting around doing nothing."
UNM got off to a hot start, getting to 7 under for the day after the first eight holes, pulling to 1 under for the tournament and putting itself in a tie for eighth.
The team, however, couldn't keep the magic going, losing five strokes over the next three holes and looked to be in trouble. Green, however, made birdies on holes 13, 14, 16 to turn UNM's round back in the right direction. He finished with a 4-under 66 and was 1 under (73-70-66) for the tournament to finish in a tie for 26th
"I didn't do anything crazy today, that was the main thing," Green said. "I played safe and made some putts."
Enough putts that Erkenbeck grabbed Green from behind after the playoff, nearly tackling him, while yelling, "Hero!"
But for the hero status to take effect, the Lobos had to have a lot of things go right. And right away, it looked as if luck was not on UNM's side as UNLV's Kurt Kitayama eagled his final hole, the par-4 ninth, from 200-plus yards out to push his team to a tie with UNM. UNLV shot a final-round, 8-under-par 272.
But as with the first two days, the afternoon scores generally were higher than the morning scores, and several teams came back to the Lobos and Rebels.
Arizona State, the first-round leader with a 22-stroke edge on UNM after Tuesday's play, slipped back. So did Arkansas, which opened Wednesday round with a nine-stroke advantage on the Lobos. The Razorbacks appeared headed into match play until they played the last four holes at 8 over par.
Nicolas Echevarria's bogey on 18 pushed Arkansas to 3 over and out of the playoff.
Texas A&M and Arizona State, playing in the same afternoon group, came to the last hole of the day with the fate of four teams in their hands. A&M was at 1-over, while ASU was tied with UNM and UNLV.
The Aggies' Tyler Dunlap made a 30-foot birdie par putt that seemingly cemented A&M's spot in Friday's match play, and the Sun Devils' Jon Rahm's made par to make it a three-way playoff.
Tournament officials, however, penalized Texas A&M one stroke for slow play after its finish, and suddenly, the playoff included four teams for three spots.
The Lobos and Rebels, idle for five hours, grabbed their clubs to join the Aggies and Sun Devils on holes 11, 15, 16, 17 and 18 -- one player for each team on each hole. News that Texas A&M was the odd team out slowly permeated the golf course.
"I can't ... I can't even explain what I'm feeling right now. I'm just really excited we get to play another day. It's a special, special day for UNM golf."
James Erkenbeck, Lobo senior men's golfer
"It was just weird; I've never waited five hours, gone out and played one hole and then been so nervous over a two-foot (par) putt," senior John Catlin said of the playoff. "It's been a roller coaster of emotions."
Catlin hit 17 of 18 greens in regulation but had several putts miss holes by inches on birdie attempts during the final 18 holes. He finished Thursday with an even-par 70 for a three-day total of 1-over-par 211 (74-67-70) to tie for 38th place.
Sophomore Victor Perez shot a 1-over 71 during his final 18 holes and finished at 2-over 212 (72-69-71) for a 49th-place tie. Senior James Erkenbeck also was 1-over for the day, and he turned in a 4-over 214 (75-68-71) to tie for 69th.
Senior Ben Bauch created his own heroics Thursday, shooting a 1-under 69 Thursday to aid UNM's comeback. He finished at 6-over 216 (74-73-69) to finish tied for 93rd.
Top-ranked California earned the top seed for match play by winning the 54-hole tournament with a 16-under 824 (277-272-275). Cal's Max Homa was 9 under (70-65-66=201) to win medalist honors.
Host Georgia Tech was second at 10-under 830 (274-274-282), followed by Alabama (275-276-282=833) at 7 under.
The matchup with the Crimson tide today left UNM's celebration Thursday short-lived.
"We really haven't done anything yet," Catlin said. "We have to come back out tomorrow like we have something to prove."
Thank you for choosing to donate to University of New Mexico Athletics! We encourage you to contribute $50 or more to become a Lobo Club member. If you have ever made a donation to the Lobo Club online, over the phone, or in person, it is very likely that you already have an account for our Online Donation Center and do not need to create a new one. If you are unsure or don't remember your login information, please contact the Lobo Club at 505-925-CLUB (2582) and we will check our system. As always, thank you for your support of the Lobo Club, the Gateway to Giving for University of New Mexico Athletics.
Thank you for choosing to donate to University of New Mexico Athletics! We encourage you to contribute $50 or more to become a Lobo Club member.
If you have ever made a donation to the Lobo Club online, over the phone, or in person, it is very likely that you already have an account for our Online Donation Center and do not need to create a new one. If you are unsure or don't remember your login information, please contact the Lobo Club at 505-925-CLUB (2582) and we will check our system.
As always, thank you for your support of the Lobo Club, the Gateway to Giving for University of New Mexico Athletics.
Questions? Please call: 505-925-CLUB (2582)