November 15, 2007–The UNLV men's golf program received signed national letters of intent from Derek Ernst, Connor Green and Colby Smith (pictured) on Wednesday – the first day of the early signing period – to enroll at UNLV next fall and play for the Rebels starting with the 2008-09 season, head coach Dwaine Knight announced. The Rebels play and practice at Las Vegas golf course Southern Highlands Golf Club in addition to several other of the best Las Vegas golf courses. "The coach really knows his program and they have the means to make you whatever type of player you want to be," Smith told the Auburn Journal about UNLV. "Everything they have available to them is top notch."
Ernst, who is from Clovis, Calif., and attends Clovis East High School, advanced to the round of 16 at the 2007 U.S. Amateur at the Olympic Club in San Francisco. The 2006 Junior Golf Association of Northern California (JGANC) Player of the Year, Ernst also won the 2006 JGANC Championship. He is ranked No. 2 in the JGANC rankings and played for the Northern California team at the 2007 Junior Americas Cup. He also finished in 8th-place at the Las Vegas Founders AJGA tournament played this summer at Las Vegas golf course Angel Park Golf Club.
"Derek has a lot of tournament wins under his belt," Knight said. "He is a real solid player and has really developed over the last few years to become one of the best in Northern California. He has a lot of experience and a big upside."
Green is from Selma, Calif., and attends Selma High School. He is a nine-time JGANC tournament winner and a two-time FCWT Junior Golf Tour winner. The No. 5-ranked player in the JGANC rankings, he was also on the Northern California team at the 2007 Junior Americas Cup.
"Connor was a real phenomenon in his early junior career, but ran into elbow problems from playing football and baseball,” Knight said. “He is an outstanding athlete and a big guy who is strong and has the ability to move the ball. He has gone through some surgeries and is now just coming back into golf full-time, but he is healthy and I think he has a big upside. A couple years ago he was viewed as the next big player coming from Northern California before his injury. He has worked his way back up to being in the top five in Northern California and he is beginning to get back the promise that he had a couple of years ago."
Smith, who is from Auburn, Calif., recorded top-10 finishes at the 2006 and 2007 Junior World Golf Championships at Torrey Pines in San Diego, Calif. Smith, who is the top-ranked player in the 2007 JGANC rankings, attends Maidu High School and played in both the 2006 and 2007 Junior Americas Cup Matches for the Northern California team.
"Colby is a young man who has great power and flat out moves the ball," Knight said. "He is very strong and has come into his own. When I first saw him a couple of years ago, I was impressed with his club head speed. He doesn’t have the same level of experience that others may have but he may be the best sleeper of them all. We are excited about him. He has the ability to move the ball a lot like a tour player, which is unique."