UNLV Men’s Golf Heads to NCAA Regionals

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Junior Brett Kanda May 13, 2009–The UNLV men’s golf team, ranked 21st nationally, will compete at the 2009 NCAA Division I Men’s Golf Austin Regional Championship, Thursday-Saturday, May 14-16, at the University of Texas Golf Club (par 71, 7,412 yards) in Austin, Texas. The tournament is being hosted by the University of Texas. This year’s regional will mark UNLV’s 21st consecutive invitation to a NCAA Regional, which is tied for the NCAA record for most consecutive regional appearances. UNLV was awarded the fifth seed at this year’s Austin Regional, which is one of six 54-hole regional tournaments that will be conducted to determine the 30 qualifying teams and six individuals not on those qualifying teams who will advance to the finals. Thirteen teams and 10 individuals not on those teams will compete at each of three regionals, while the other three regionals will have 14 teams and five individuals not on those teams.

The low five teams and low individual not on those teams at each regional will advance to the NCAA Championship. UNLV is looking to qualify for its first trip to the championship finals since 2006, which would mark its third trip over the last five years and its 17th appearance at the event in the last 21 years. UNLV did not advance to the NCAA finals as a team in 2001, 2004, 2007 and 2008. The 2009 NCAA Division I Men’s Golf Championship will be held May 26-30 at the Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio (hosted by the University of Toledo). The NCAA Regionals will have live scoring on the internet, available through UNLVRebels.com, courtesy of Golfstat.

ABOUT UNLV: The Rebels are currently ranked 21st nationally, according to the latest edition of the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index. They are ranked 25th in the Golf World/NIKE Golf Coaches’ Poll and 30th in the Golfstat Head-to-Head Standings. UNLV has played in 11 tournaments as a team this season, has two wins (the William H. Tucker Invitational in Albuquerque, N.M., in September and the Southern Highlands Collegiate Championship in Las Vegas in March), and has a total of eight top-five finishes. UNLV’s top individual finish of the season was turned in by Eddie Olson, who tied for first at the Tucker Invitational. Olson also tied for second at the Jerry Pate National Intercollegiate in Birmingham, Ala., in October, while Ji Moon finished second at the Mountain West Conference Championship in Tucson, Ariz., earlier this month. Olson leads the team in stroke average with 71.50 per round, while Derek Ernst is second with 72.23. Brett Kanda is third at 72.67, while Ji Moon has an average of 73.20 and Colby Smith is at 74.10. Kanda leads the team in rounds played this year with 33, while Olson has played 32. Olson is first on the team in rounds under par (18) and par or better (19). Ernst and Kanda each have turned in 11 rounds of under-par golf, while Kanda has six rounds at even-par and Ernst has three.

THE LINEUP: The Rebels’ five-man lineup for the NCAA’s Austin Regional will remain the same as the one used for its third-place finish at the Mountain West Conference Championship in Tucson, Ariz., earlier this month. Participating for UNLV will be juniors Brett Kanda and Eddie Olson, sophomore Ji Moon and freshmen Derek Ernst and Colby Smith. The Rebels finished one shot back  (pictured) at the MWC Championship, while Moon finished second individually, four shots back. Ernst and Olson tied for 13th, Smith was tied for 20th and Kanda tied for 24th out of 45 total golfers.

HEAD COACH DWAINE KNIGHT: UNLV men’s golf head coach Dwaine Knight is in his 22nd year at the helm of the Rebel program. During his tenure, UNLV has been a perennial power with six league championships and 16 NCAA finals appearances. His 1998 squad won the national championship and he coached the team to 12 top-15 finishes at the national finals over a 15-year span. He has also tutored two individual national champions (Warren Schutte, 1991; Ryan Moore, 2004). Knight was the only mentor to twice claim GCAA National Coach of the Year honors in the 1990s (1991 and 1998) and he has produced an amazing 37 All-Americans, while guiding nine different players to the PGA Tour from UNLV.

THE FORMAT: The NCAA’s Austin Regional consists of 13 teams made up of five golfers each and another 10 golfers will play as individuals from teams that did not qualify for the NCAA Regionals. All 75 players will compete over 54-holes on Thursday, Friday and Saturday with 18 holes each day beginning at 8:30 a.m. CDT. The low four scores each round will count toward the team total. The top five teams and one individual not on those teams will go on to the NCAA Championship finals, which will be held May 26-30 at the Inverness Club in Toledo, Ohio (hosted by the University of Toledo). There are six total regionals, which is a change this year from the old format of three regionals. Three regionals have 13 teams and 10 individuals, while the other three regionals have 14 teams and five individuals. Five teams and one individual from teams that don’t advance from each regional will make up the 30 teams and six individuals at the NCAA finals.

THE AUSTIN REGIONAL’S FIELD: Five of the 13 teams at the NCAA’s Austin Regional rank among the top 25 in the nation in the latest edition of the Golfweek/Sagarin Performance Index and eight of the 13 teams are ranked in the top 48. The following is the field in order by seeding along with each team’s Golfweek ranking in parenthesis: Stanford (5), Florida (8), Texas Tech (19), Texas (25), UNLV (21), California (32), Lamar (34), Michigan (48), Texas-Arlington, Virginia Tech, Mississippi State, New Mexico State, Jackson State. The 10 individuals competing in the field are: Glenn Northcutt (Auburn), Ken Looper (New Orleans), Cole Moreland (Auburn), Adam Cornelson (New Orleans), Cedric Scotto (Southeastern Louisiana), Jeff Gerlich (Texas State), Matthew Carvell (Southeastern Louisiana), Corey Roberson (Texas State), Fergal Rafferty (Sam Houston State), Gonzalo Berlin (Jacksonville State).

UNLV VS. THE FIELD: Head-to-head, the Rebels own a 10-3-1 record against the NCAA’s Austin Regional field this year. That record was assembled against seven of the 12 opponents bound for Texas (in order of seed): Florida (1-0), Texas Tech (0-1), Texas (2-2), California (4-0), Texas-Arlington (0-0-1), Mississippi State (1-0), New Mexico State (2-0).

UNLV’S HISTORY AT THE NCAA REGIONAL: The Rebels earned their 21st consecutive invitation to a NCAA Regional this year, which is tied for the NCAA record for most consecutive appearances all-time. Last year UNLV finished 24th (56-over 920) out of 27 teams at the West Regional in Bremerton, Wash. Only four times in 20 appearances has UNLV failed to advance to the national finals (2001, 2004, 2007 and 2008). UNLV has finished in top five at the regional 15 times, has four team titles (1990, 1994, 1997 and 2005) and boasts three individual medalists (Hub Goyen, 1990; Warren Schutte, 1991; Ed Fryatt, 1994). UNLV was led at last year’s West Regional by Brett Kanda, who tied for 71st at 12-over 228. No other Rebel player finished in the top 100 at last year’s event. Other returning Rebel players finishes: Ji Moon tied for 106th at 17-over 233 and Eddie Olson tied for 111th at 18-over 234.

UNLV’S REGIONAL EXPERIENCE: Three players scheduled to play for the Rebels at this year’s regional have previous NCAA Regional experience. Juniors Brett Kanda and Eddie Olson each have played in the last two regionals, while sophomore Ji Moon played in the event last year. Kanda’s best showing was last year as he led the Rebels by tying for 71st (12-over 228) in Bremerton, Wash. In 2007, Kanda tied for 118th (8-over 224) in Tempe, Ariz. Olson’s best finish was a tie for 71st (2-under 214) in 2007 and he finished tied for 111th (18-over 234) last year. In Moon’s only regional tournament, he finished tied for 106th (17-over 233) last year.

UNLV AT THE 2009 MWC CHAMPIONSHIP: Earlier this month, the Rebels finished third (7-under 845) out of nine teams at the Mountain West Conference Championship in Tucson, Ariz., finishing just one shot back of TCU and San Diego State after 54-holes of play (TCU won in a playoff). Sophomore Ji Moon led the Rebels with a second-place finish individually, finishing four shots back at 5-under 208. Derek Ernst and Eddie Olson each tied for 13th at 1-over 214, Colby Smith tied for 20th a 3-over 216 and Brett Kanda finished tied for 24th at 4-over 217.

ALL-MOUNTAIN WEST CONFERENCE: Two Rebels were named to the 2009 All-Mountain West Conference team at the conclusion of the MWC Championship. Junior Eddie Olson and freshman Derek Ernst were both named to the 10-person squad. Olson is now a two-time all-conference player, while it was a first for Ernst.

REBELS LOOK TO GET BACK TO NCAA FINALS: With a top-five finish at the NCAA’s Austin Regional, UNLV would advance to the NCAA finals as a team for the first time since 2006 and for the third time in five seasons. UNLV didn’t advance to the finals each of the last two seasons after tying for 16th at the 2007 West Regional and finishing 24th at the 2008 West Regional, but did in 2005 and 2006. UNLV has competed in 16 NCAA finals and won it all in 1998. The Rebels finished second as a team in 1996, which was their top finish before 1998.

MWC GOLFER OF THE MONTH: Eddie Olson earned the MWC Golfer of the Month award for September. Olson, an Aptos, Calif., native, opened the 2008-09 season guiding UNLV to a second-place finish at the Gene Miranda Falcon Invitational in Colorado Springs, Colo. He claimed third overall out of 96 golfers and was under par all three rounds after carding a 7-under 209 (69-71-69) on the par 72, 7,301-yard Eisenhower Blue Course. At the William H. Tucker Invitational in Albuquerque, N.M., the 2008 MWC individual champion earned co-medalist honors and led the Rebels to the team title with a 5-under 211 (67-74-70) on the par 72, 7,403-yard Championship Course. Olson shot three of six rounds in September in the 60s, and five of six rounds under par. For the season, Olson is third in the MWC in scoring average with 71.50. He is also the Rebels’ top-ranked player according to Golfweek (58th). He has led the Rebels to a national ranking of No. 21, which is second in the MWC, only behind TCU (20th). The golfer of the month award was Olson’s first of his career.

NATIONAL TEAM OF THE WEEK: UNLV has earned Golfweek’s National Team of the Week honor twice this season. The first honor came after the Rebels won the William H. Tucker Invitational in Albuquerque, N.M., in September. UNLV entered the final round of the tournament trailing host New Mexico by five shots. UNLV, led by co-medalist Eddie Olson’s 2-under 70, posted a final-round-best 5-under 283 and won the event by 11 shots. It was the Rebels’ first win of the year in just their second tournament. The second national team of the week honor came after UNLV’s remarkable comeback to win the Southern Highlands Collegiate Championship in Las Vegas in March. The Rebels rallied from a 12-stroke deficit on the final day to earn the team title. UNLV shot a final-round-low 6-under-par 282 and won its second straight team title at the Southern Highlands Collegiate Championship and fourth in the last five years. The Rebels finished the tournament with a 54-hole total of 9-under 855, one shot better than Oklahoma State, which was ranked No. 3 at the time. The comeback was reminiscent of UNLV charging back from 12 strokes down to win the Golf Digest Collegiate in Houston back in 1996, and like this year, it was Oklahoma State which carried the big lead that the Rebels were able to overcome. The win marked the second team title of the season for UNLV and was its eighth Southern Highlands Collegiate Championship title in the last 15 years.

HAN LEAVES PROGRAM TO TURN PRO: Seung-Su Han, who was a senior on the UNLV men’s golf team, passed the second stage of PGA Tour Qualifying School in November, which earned him conditional status on the Nationwide Tour. Han, who last year became the first college golfer to ever advance to the Q-School finals, decided to not turn professional and returned to UNLV. This year, however, Han decided to accept the status and turn pro. “It is difficult to lose your best player, but I am so proud Seung-su decided to play golf here at UNLV,” said Dwaine Knight, head coach of the UNLV men’s golf team. “He is a wonderful talent and we wish him nothing but the best. We will be pulling for him out there on the Tour.” At the conclusion of the 2007-08 season, Han was named to the PING All-Pacific Region team for the second straight year and was one of three Rebels selected All-Mountain West Conference, marking his third selection on the all-conference squad. He was named last year’s team MVP and led the MWC in scoring average with 71.33, which ranked as the fifth-best seasonal average in UNLV men’s golf history. This season, Han competed in three tournaments and recorded one top-10 finish.

OLSON WAS ON 2009 HOGAN WATCH LIST: UNLV junior Eddie Olson was included on the Ben Hogan Award watch list, which was announced in February by Chesepeake Energy, in association with Colonial Country Club, The Friends of Golf (FOG) and the Golf Coaches Association of America (GCAA). The most prestigious award in men’s college golf, The Hogan is presented annually to the top men’s NCAA Division I, II or III, NAIA or junior college golfer taking into account all collegiate and amateur competitions during the last 12 months. The semifinalists were announced in April and Olson did not make that list.

OLSON WAS A MIDSEASON ALL-AMERICAN: UNLV junior Eddie Olson was named to the Golf World Midseason All-American Team, the publication announced in November. Olson made the 12-person men’s squad along with Zahkai Brown (Colorado State), Bronson Burgoon (Texas A&M), Jorge Campillo (Indiana), Kevin Foley (Penn State), Dustin Garza (Wichita State), Matt Hill (North Carolina State), Scott Langley (Illinois), Kyle Stanley (Clemson), Derek Tolan (Colorado), Cameron Tringale (Georgia Tech) and Mike Van Sickle (Marquette). Campillo was selected as the men’s “Player of the Mid-Year.” Olson led the Rebels during the fall in scoring average with 69.67. UNLV finished in the top five in all four tournaments it competed in the fall, including capturing the team title at the William H. Tucker Invitational in Albuquerque, N.M., in September. Olson finished in the top five individually in all four tournament he played during the fall with his best finish coming at the Tucker Invitational where he tied for first. He also shot nine of 12 rounds under par and another at even-par.

COACH KNIGHT EARNS HONOR: UNLV men’s golf head coach Dwaine Knight was recognized as an award winner at the Southern Nevada Chapter’s PGA Annual Dinner, which was held in January at TPC Summerlin in Las Vegas. Knight earned the PGA Golf Professional of the Year Award, which is one of the highest honors the Association can bestow on a working club professional whose total contributions to the game best exemplify the complete PGA Professional. To be nominated for the Pro of the Year Award, candidates must have demonstrated outstanding qualities of leadership, demonstrated strong moral character, maintained a substantial record of service to the Association and the game of golf, as well as have been well-regarded as a model PGA Golf Professional.

REBELS SIGNED TWO IN THE FALL: The UNLV men’s golf program received signed national letters of intent from Karsten Majors and Kevin Penner during November’s early signing period – to enroll at UNLV in the fall and play for the Rebels starting with the 2009-10 season. Majors, who is from Tulsa, Okla., and attends Bixby High School, was the champion at the 2007 Red River Shootout, which pits the top players from Texas against their counterparts from Oklahoma. He was the runner-up at the 2007 Oklahoma 5A High School State Championship and won the 2008 regional championship. He also claimed medalist honors at the 2008 conference championship and finished in the top 10 at the 2008 state championship. Majors’ brother, Draegen, is currently a junior at SMU. Penner is from Sammamish, Wash., and attends Eastlake High School. He was the 2007 Washington 4A High School State Champion and finished third in 2008. He is ranked as the No. 37 player among juniors in the country and played in the 2008 USGA Junior Amateur National Championship where he finished 18th out of 154 golfers. He was also a 2007 second-team All-America by the Future Collegiate World Tour and was the 2008 Washington Boys Junior Golfer of the Year.

Report: Andy Grossman, Director of Media Relations, UNLV Athletics

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