UTEP and New Mexico State golf teams will be competing in the same season opening tournament.
The UTEP men’s and women’s golf teams will both see their first action of the 2011-12 season on Monday. The Miner men will participate in the Mark Simpson Invitational in Erie, Colo., and the women will play in the Ptarmigan/Ram Fall Classic in Fort Collins, Colo.
Both tournaments will end on Tuesday, with 36 of the 54 holes being played on the first day.
The UTEP men return six players who saw action last season, but a pair of freshmen – both native El Pasoans – have earned spots on coach Scott Lieberwirth’s lineup card for the initial competition of the season. Jacob Loya (Cathedral HS) and Jere Pelletier (Coronado HS) will join holdovers Devin Miertschin, Luke Ovenden and David Persons in Colorado. Pelletier is the nephew of UTEP women’s coach Jere Pelletier.
Lieberwirth is in his first year as UTEP’s head coach after leading neighboring rival NM State to six conference championships and six NCAA Regional appearances in eight years. The players have made his transition in El Paso an easy one.
“We have implemented a little different qualifying and practice system than what they’re used to, but they’ve been excited,” Lieberwirth said. “This is the hardest working group that I’ve been with. They’ve been out there every day. The time and effort will only make them better.
“I don’t know what to expect from the first tournament. We’ll try to get started on the right foot and gain some experience. You’d like to enjoy some success and gain some momentum for the rest of the fall schedule.”
The Miners will play in six tournaments this fall and will be tested immediately next week.
“It’s a nice field with some good teams,” Lieberwirth said. “Colorado State made it to nationals. New Mexico and NM State will both be there. It would be good to knock off a few teams higher than we are. That’s how you improve your ranking in college golf.”
The UTEP women are coming off the best season in school history, a year that produced the school’s first conference championship and NCAA Regional appearance. The Miners welcome back their top two players from that squad in reigning C-USA Player of the Year Teresa Nogues (76.2 stroke average) and Shang-Fan Huang (76.4), both seniors.
Coach Jere Pelletier will also be taking sophomore Emma Edin and freshmen Nathalie Castillo and Camino Sardinero to Fort Collins. Edin appeared in eight tournaments last season.
“If everyone plays to their ability I expect us to finish well, but the field is really strong for this tournament,” Pelletier said. “Our goal is to finish in the top 10. But more importantly, I’d like to see us break 900 as a team. If we could do that, then we would be very successful.”
The reining 2011 WAC Champion NM State men’s golf team is set to open the 2011-12 season at the Mark Simpson Colorado Invitational, in Boulder, Colo., Sept. 12-13. The Colorado National Golf Club will host the tournament with a championship layout of 7,741 yard, par-72 configuration.
The Aggies will travel senior Gaston De La Torre, junior Justin Shin, senior Miko Alejandro, senior Zachery Fullerton and freshman Simon Miller.
Last year, the Aggies finished fifth overall with a three-round score of 8-over par, 872. Senior Gaston De La Torre led the Aggies in the tournament placing third overall with a three round score of 4-under par, 212. He recorded a final round score of 2-under par, 70, tallying four birdies.
NM State will face some top-notch teams including Air Force, Colorado, Colorado State, Gonzaga, Houston Baptist, Kansas, Nevada, New Mexico, Northern Colorado, Oklahoma, San Diego, Utah, UTEP and Wyoming.
Results will be available on golfstat.com and NMStateSports.com following each round.