March 10, 2008–It's customary for winning Ryder Cup teams to let the champagne flow following a triumph, but just moments after UNLV golfer Seung-Su Han (pictured) ensured a Rebel victory in their home golf tournament with a scintillating third shot on the par 5, 18th hole at Las Vegas golf course Southern Highlands, the Rebels celebrated in a more fun and casual style: Choco-Tacos and Klondike Krunch ice cream for everyone! The bars were quickly gobbled up by fans, family and players (losing teams, too), symbolizing how the Rebels munched on one of the most talented and deep tournament fields in all of college golf. The Southern Highlands Collegiate Golf Championship–dubbed the Masters of College Golf because of the always stellar field–featured seven of the top 10 teams and nearly half of the best players. But it was UNLV, playing head-to-head against #1 Georgia and #4 Charlotte down the stretch, that walked away with a two-stroke win over Charlotte, giving the Rebels their third home win in four years and seventh in the last 14 home tournaments.
"We had a great field, and it was great for us to be playing in the last group with some of the top teams in the country," said UNLV Head Coach Dwaine Knight immediately following the win. "We have played in the last group several times of late, and we haven't been able to get it done … but that experience helped us get the win today. We hope we can build on this. The team was really hungry (for a win)."
UNLV, ranked #22, tied for the lowest final-round score on Sunday a 5-over 293 and won the team title with a 54-hole total of 5-over 869. The tournament was hosted by the Rebels, the Las Vegas Founders and Southern Highlands Golf Club. The Southern Highlands Golf Club course, a Robert Trent Jones, Jr. and Sr. co-design, provided a great challenge, with tough rough and slick greens that were rolling about a 12 on the stimpmeter according to Southern Highlands owner Garry Goett.
The Southern Highlands Collegiate Championship win for UNLV marks its second team title of the season (also the Shoot-out at Angel Park in September – in Las Vegas) and sixth straight top-five finish.
Han, the Rebel who made it to the finals of the PGA Tour Q-School last fall but elected to return to UNLV instead of playing the Nationwide Tour with conditional status, struggled for much of the final round, but stepped up huge with a par-par-birdie finish to clinch the win. He was playing in the final threesome, and after playing a perfect layup to about 30 yards to the left of the green oo the par 5, 18th hole, Han hit a slick pitching wedge that skipped a few times before rolling up a slope at the back of the green and then rolled down to about four feet from the back-right pin. The shot came moments after Charlotte golfer Jonas Enander Hedin hit a beautiful shot to about six feet. At the time, Charlotte trailed the Rebels by two.
"I wasn't really worried about what (Hedin) was doing, I was focused on my shot," said Han, before adding that ithe shot ranked right up there with the best shots he has hit, given the situation. "I wasn't trying to play it up the slope, but I did know if I hit it long it might come back down the hill."
"I am proud of the guys for putting themselves in that position (to win)," said Knight. "If you keep getting to that position, you are going to knock down that door and we did that today. This is a big win because of the quality of the field. It was a NCAA Championship-caliber field, which made the win that much more special. Regardless of the outcome, I knew going into today we would learn a lot playing with the No. 1 team in the country in Georgia and No. 3 Charlotte. Our guys now understand that sometimes you don't have to play your very best to win, but you do have to gut it out, which is what we did."
Charlotte is ranked #3 by the coaches and #4 in a Golweek poll.
The Rebels were led by junior Seung-su Han, who finished at 1-over 217 for the tournament to tie for 10th place individually. He shot a final-round 4-over 76. Charlotte's Jonas Enander Hedin, USC's Rory Hie and Georgia's Hudson Swafford all tied for first at 3-under 213. Hedin and Hie both shot final-round 1-over 73s, while Swafford shot 5-over 77 on Sunday. The three-way playoff consisted of replaying the 18th hole, which Hie birdied to win the individual title. Three golfers tied for fourth at 2-under for the tournament.
Other UNLV team-counting, final-round scores, totals and places: sophomore Brett Kanda (71, 4-over 220, T15th), sophomore Eddie Olson (76, 4-over 220, T15th), senior Matt Kinsinger (79, 5-over 221, T18th) and freshman Ji Moon (70, 11-over 227, T43rd).
UNLV players playing as individuals, final-round scores and places: senior C.J. Gatto (74, 11-over 227, T43rd), senior Brandon Loska (78, 11-over 227, T43rd), senior Jarred Texter (78, 19-over 235, T63rd), freshman Jeremiah Wooding (87, 20-over 236, 66th) and sophomore Johnny Pinjuv (80, 35-over 251, 79th).
The tournament featured seven of the top-10 teams in the country, according to the Golfweek/Sagarin Poll, as well as six of the top-10 individuals. Additionally, the event had 14 of the nation's top-30 collegiate players and four U.S. Walker Cup team members.