Las Vegas, Nevada (May 13, 2010)–UNLV men’s golf coach Dwaine Knight knows all about the highs and lows of playing in the regional golf tournament. After all, this is the 22nd straight year the Rebels have qualified for the regionals—an NCAA record. UNLV is coming off a third-place finish in the Mountain West Conference Championships and Knight, in his 23rd year with the Rebels, is looking for a great showing from his talented squad.–By Bill Bowman
Sophomore Derek Ernst, the Mountain West Conference Player of the Year, will lead the Rebels into the regional tournament which will be held starting May 22 in San Diego at Carlton Oaks Golf Club. Knight said the honor bestowed on Ernst is impressive. “It’s great for him to be honored,” Knight said. “It’s the first time since Ryan Moore in 2005 that we’ve had a golfer honored. Jeremy Anderson also won the award so Derek is in good company.” Others making the trip for UNLV, ranked 12th in the nation and seeded No. 2 in the regional right behind Oregon, will be sophomore Colby Smith, seniors Eddie Olson (second in the MWC tournament) and Brett Kanda and freshman Kevin Pinner. “The young guys have really contributed well for us,” Knight added. “And Eddie and Brett have given us big rounds this year so it’s a good mix for us.”
The UNLV Men’s Golf team is an important part of the fabric of the Las Vegas Golf Region, and several former players now currently star on the PGA Tour including Adam Scott, Ryan Moore, Chad Campbell, and Charley Hoffman, among others. The team plays and practices at various Las Vegas golf courses including Las Vegas Country Club and their home course, Southern Highlands Golf Club. Also, there are more than 50 golf courses in the region, with many being resort course which are open for play to all, including Las Vegas Paiute Golf Resort the home to three Pete Dye golf courses.
Knight said the Rebels’ goal is simple: Consistent golf. “We have to have good, solid rounds to advance and we’re close to doing that,” Knight said of the 54-hole event. “We have to play to a higher level now and the guys know that. One poor round can take you out of it. We want to win a championship and in order to do that, you have to play well.” This season the Rebels have won four of the 12 tournaments they have played in and also have eight top-three finishes. The four team titles are the most wins in a season since the Rebels won five times in 1998-1999.
In the end, Knight said it’s going to be a shootout to be one of the five teams advancing to the NCAA Division I Men’s Golf Championship which will be held June 1-6 at The Honors Course in Chattanooga, Tenn. “We just have to play awfully well,” Knight said. “Having dropped from 10 teams to five that qualify for the finals, that makes it awfully tight. Someone’s going to play very well and we are definitely right there. We know the pain of being close and not qualifying and we know the high of getting back there and winning. It’s a very fine line and always a great opportunity.”