Las Vegas, Nevada (March 1, 2012)–The annual UNLV Men's home golf event has included such a deep field of teams over the years that it was unofficially dubbed the "Masters of College Golf" several years ago by national media members. A couple years ago, the word "Masters" was officially added to the title, but one thing that won't be different when the Southern Highlands Collegiate Masters is played in Las Vegas March 9-11, 2012, is that many of the top teams and players in the game will be teeing it up. –By Brian Hurlburt @LVGolfInsider
According to recent rankings, the event that is played at the exclusive Southern Highlands Golf Club–UNLV's home course–will feature four of the to five teams in the country, five of the top 10, and 10 of the top 25. "There’s no doubt we’ll be stepping up to tall cotton next week,” UNLV Head Coach Dwaine Knight recently told Golfweek college golf expert Ron Balicki. “This will really be an indicator to where we are. It will be a big test for us. But the guys are very excited about playing against one of the best, if not the best, fields in college golf on their home course.”
The 12th-ranked Rebels recently won their fourth title of the season, the Wyoming Desert Intercollegiate that was hosted by Wyoming but played at the Classic Club in Palm Desert, Calif. It was the Rebels fourth win in six starts. The other wins came when UNLV shot 20-under par and beat Colorado in a playoff at the Air Force Falcon Invitational and then when it shot 34-under par to capture the New Mexico State/Herb Wimberly event. The Rebels also won the Tucker Invitational and placed sixth at the Jerry Pate in the fall and opened the spring with a runnerup finish at the John Burns in Hawaii.
The whole team is playing well coming off the win at the Wyoming event. The Rebels had five individuals finish in the top five, led by junior Kevin Penner, who captured medalist honors at the event for the second straight year. It was the first time that he finished in first place without a tie and it marked his second win of the season and third of his career. Penner won the event by one stroke as he finished at 7-under 209 after carding a second-round 3-under 69 and a final-round 1-over 73.
Rebel senior Derek Ernst finished in a three-way tie for second at 6-under 210 after shooting 70 in all three rounds. Sophomore Blake Biddle was the third Rebel in the top five as he finished in a three-way tie for fifth at 5-under 211 after a second-round even-par 72 and a final-round 5-under 67.
“Before the tournament, we talked about how the Palm Springs area has always been good to the Rebels,” said UNLV head coach Dwaine Knight via official UNLV press release. “Chad Campbell and Charley Hoffman (former UNLV golfers) both won the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic on the PGA TOUR on this course, so to get a team win here is very special. I am proud of our guys. Our high score at any time this weekend was a 73, which is amazing on this course. We were concerned with our depth coming in, but everyone contributed. It is really the definition of a team win. I am very happy for Kevin getting another win here, Derek played great and so did Blake. This was a great field and now we have a lot of momentum going into our home tournament with some of the best teams in the country."