Las Vegas, Nevada (May 24, 2010)–At one time, UNLV Men's Head Golf Coach Dwaine Knight and his UNLV Rebel golf team made qualifying to play for the NCAA college golf title look as easy as a two-foot gimme. There never seemed to be much suspense come each May, when the Rebels would advance to the final college golf tournament of the year. But, the fact is, getting to the NCAA Finals is a big deal and hard to do, evidenced by the fact that Rebel Golf will be making their first trip to the event in four years when they tee it up June 1-6 at the Honors Course in Tennessee.–By Bill Bowman.
UNLV, ranked 12th in the nation, finished tied for third at the NCAA San Diego Regional which was played at Carlton Oaks Golf Club on May 20-22. The Rebels were 22-over-par for three rounds. Oregon won the regional with a 6-over-par total. Eddie Olson led UNLV with a tie for third, finishing up at 1-under-par. Other Rebel scores included Colby Smith (T18, 6-over), Derek Ernst (T33, 9-over), Kevin Penner (T45, 11-over-par) and Brett Kanda (T57, 15-over).
UNLV Coach Dwaine Knight, who missed the tournament while attending the funeral of an uncle, said the Rebels are peaking at just the right time. "We've been close to playing well and really improved this week," Knight said. "But, we didn't get it all done. We've had four wins this year and been pretty consistent over a long period of time." Now comes arguably the toughest test for the Rebels, at least course-wise. "This will be the hardest course any of these guys have played," Knight said. "It's the kind of course that a team that's not favored…if they get some momentum…could win it." Knight's team played the course in 1996 and the Rebels finished second. "I'm familiar with it," Knight said. "We came so close. We were even with three holes to play and had a really good chance to win it."
Now the Rebels will spend time focusing on the strong points and weaknesses of the Regonal effort. "I'll visit with Daron (Dorsey, assistant coach) and see what we did well at San Diego and what we didn't do well. We'll see where we can improve and come up with a game plan and start practicing in the areas where we didn't compete well." Knight added he's especially happy that his two seniors–Olson and Kanda–along with sophomores Ernst and Smith and freshman Pinner get the chance to experience a trip to the Nationals. "It's not easy to get there," Knight said. "Especially ths year with just five teams from each region qualifying, it's quite impressive just to make it. I'm anxious to see how we handle it." And Knight knows a little about the trips to the Nationals. "It's my 17th trip with UNLV and we made it back there eight times at New Mexico so that's 25 years … I feel pretty blessed."
UNLV's last trip to the Nationals was in 2006 where the Rebels finished 19th. UNLV won the national crown in 1998 and was second in 1996 (at The Honors Course). "We've learned a lot this year but we've still got more to learn," Knight said. "This is going to be a really, really hard golf course and those are the ones we've usually played the best. We'll just get as prepared as we can because it's going to be a really, really tough test." The Rebels are making their 6th appearance at the Finals in the last six years.