'We're all motivated to make a run': New Mexico men's golf selected to play in West Lafayette regional

May 1—Jake Harrington was honest: Days like Wednesday, spent watching names come and go during the NCAA Selection Show, are a little more nerve-racking than he'd probably prefer.

"There's six sites, right?" New Mexico men's golf's coach said Wednesday. "You don't know where you're gonna be. You see different predictions on social media about where you're gonna go and all that."

Luckily, the Lobos didn't have to wait long. For the first time under Harrington, New Mexico was selected to play in the West Lafayette (Indiana) regional at Birck Boilermaker Golf Complex, the first of six sites announced for the NCAA Division I Championships starting May 13.

The Lobos — who advanced to the Salem regional in Oconee County, South Carolina last season — are making their 31st regional appearance since the NCAA installed the format in 1989. The five lowest scoring teams from each regional will advance to the national championships at Omni La Costa Resort and Spa in Carlsbad, California; UNM has made it to the NCAA finals 43 times in program history.

Seeded fourth in the West Lafayette regional, Harrington admitted Birck was a course he "secretly liked" if only for the challenge it presents for the 23rd-ranked Lobos.

"It's so tough," Harrington said. "I mean, I've been there before and coached on that course before, and it's a brutal test of golf. It's a really good test of golf and I'm excited to bring these guys out here because I like, 'make it as tough as you can get' and I'll put my team up against any team in the country."

UNM will compete against third-ranked Vanderbilt, reigning national champion Florida and home team Purdue in the 13-team, 54-hole tournament. Mountain West rival Colorado State was also selected as an at-large with Arizona, Mississippi State, Indiana and Stetson while four automatic qualifiers round out the field. Among them, San Diego State.

After not playing their "best golf" in the first two rounds of last week's Mountain West Championship, Albert Boneta carded a 68 for UNM and the Lobos shot a blistering seven-under 281 Sunday to force a playoff with the Aztecs at Emerald Valley Golf Club in Creswell, Oregon.

UNM took a one-stroke lead off Oliver Cage's birdie only for SDSU's Tyler Kowack and Justin Hastings to record one of their own. After the Aztecs clinched their third straight Mountain West title, Harrington had the Lobos — who have won two of 12 tournaments with four runner-up finishes this season — watch the ensuing trophy ceremony.

"Because I want it to hurt," UNM's coach said on Wednesday. "But I think if you can have that feeling and know that you never want that feeling again, it's gonna help you those days where you don't quite want to work (and) you're gonna go work even harder. And that's kind of my mentality and how I approach things."

One his team has taken in stride.

"We feel like the last couple of years we maybe didn't perform as well as we definitely could have," said junior Carson Herron, who finished tied for ninth (-2) at the Mountain West Championships. "Last year, we didn't make it to nationals but our coaches this year kinda wanted a little more out of us, really pushing us to be our best (and) reach our full potential.

"We're all motivated to make a run at match play — hopefully national championships. First, make it there and then see how far we can go. But we've worked really hard and just (want) to see how far we can go."

As for preparation, it'll be business as usual for UNM. Harrington places an emphasis on course management, frequently using Google Earth to help map golf courses "from 10,000 feet" to paint a clear, honest picture of what his team is getting into, and will use the same resources to do so for Birck.

"We're gonna tell the guys it's a tough golf course. And this is a golf course (where) par matters. And we're gonna go out there and play our best and whatever happens, (it's) like we tell our guys all the time: 'We're gonna play our golf and if somebody beats us, we're gonna shake their hands.'

"But I believe we have a really good shot to go and thrive in this regional."