UNLV's Derek Ernst led the Rebels at the nationals, tying for 25th Las Vegas, Nevada (June 9, 2010)–The return to the NCAA Division I Men’s Golf Championship didn’t have the finish the Rebels had hoped to achieve. UNLV finished tied for 21st with a three-day total of 15-over-par 879. But, according to UNLV coach Dwaine Knight, it was a learning process that will help the team down the line.–By Bill Bowman

“I’m glad we got back to the finals,” UNLV Coach Dwaine Knight said. “It was very important for us. Our goal was to complete but to compete you have to have a great round and we just never got everyone going.” Sophomore Derek Ernst led the Rebels with a 1-under-total of 215 and was tied for 25th in the tournament held in last week at the Honors Course in Ooltewah, Tenn. He posted an even-par final round 72. Ernst, the Mountain West Conference Player of the Year, was named to the PING All-West Region team. The Rebels play and practice at several Las Vegas golf courses but their home is Southern Highlands Golf Club. Las Vegas is known as the Ultimate Golf City and has more than 50 golf courses in the area.

Freshman Kevin Penner tied for 64th with a 4-over-par total that included a one-under-par 71 in the third round. Brett Kanda and Eddie Olson, both seniors, tied for 103rd at 9-over-par while sophomore Colby Smith tied for 116h at 11-over-par. The top eight teams after the third round advanced to the match play portion of the tournament. “I think our three young players obviously got a really great experience,” Knight added. “Derek’s had a fantastic year. He finished in the top 25 and will probably make All-American. We got two really consistent rounds from Kevin and Colby has thrown in a lot of really good scores for us. The consistency of those three will be a big key for us as we move forward. Those three coming back to be able to talk about this experience will be great for the young kids coming in. It will be fun. We red-shirted two freshmen and have two freshmen coming in so we’re going to have a really young group playing for us next year.”

The tournament was the 17th time UNLV qualified for the NCAA Championships in the last 22 years, but the first time in the last four years. The Rebels were the national champs in 1998 and second in 1996 (also at the Honors Course). Two Rebels–Warren Schutte (1991) and Ryan Moore (1994)–have won the individual title. The Rebels lose three seniors: Kanda, Olson and Johnny Pinjue. “I’m happy we got to nationals in their time,” Knight said. “All three got their degrees and leave with their heads high.”

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