May 22, 2007–The UNLV Mens golf team won't be teeing it up next week in the NCAA Finals, and that is a very rare occurrence. Since Hall-of-Fame UNLV Head Coach Dwaine Knight came to UNLV in the mid eighties, the Rebels have been to the NCAA Finals an amazing 16 times, including in 1998 when they won the national championship. But the Rebels faltered down the stretch at the NCAA West Regionals in Arizona, and finished in a tie for 16th, outside the top 10 and teams heading to the finals. "This is a tough bullet to take," says Knight. "It is what it is, so hopefully we can take the lessons we learned and look ahead … but it is heart breaking." The Rebels were in position to make the cut (they stood at 27-under par with three holes to play and were within the top 10) but struggled on the final few holes. Knight stresses the importance of strong finishes to the Rebels from day one of the season, but unfortunately the team couldn't respond. Two other times this year, in Hawaii and here in their home event at Las Vegas golf course Southern Highlands, the Rebels faltered on the final few holes, throwing away wins. But in two other events the Rebels had strong finishes and won.
The Rebels won the PING Arizona Intercollegiate and the Morris Williams Intercollegiate with the strong finishes.
The Rebels miss the NCAA Finals for only the second time since 1989. And in one of the those years–2004–former UNLV star Ryan Moore played as an individual and won the national title.
Knight says that while it is difficult to swallow not competing in the NCAA Finals, the Rebel team has nothing to regret when it comes to effort throughout the season, on and off the course.
"You do have to ask yourself if all of the effort is worth it," says Knight. "But we told the team that all our hard work was worth it, and to do any less would be a disservice to the program. We had a championship effort throughout this season, even if the results on the scoreboard aren't championship level."
Knight also says that he thinks the Rebels, as a group, will have one of their best school efforts once grades are released.
And Knight thinks that the Rebels will be able to use the tough lessons learned this year in their preparations for next year. The Rebels return all five players who competed in the NCAA West Regionals, including junior-to-be Seung Su Han, who Knight says improved dramatically in the fall season.
The others from the regionals are Eddie Olson, Jared Texter, CJ Gatto and Brett Kanda.
"This has happened a couple of times before to us, so we know the risk going in," says Knight, summing up the year. "We were in a tough region, and the scores were phenomenal."
UNLV is joined on the sidelines by perennial powerhouses Clemson, Texas A&M and BYU, the Mountain West conference champion.