Las Vegas, Nevada (February 20, 2013)–The UNLV golf team starts the spring golf season this week at the John A. Burns Intercollegiate in Hawaii. The team could be ready for a nice run to the NCAA Golf Championships and is anchored by experience but also two freshman from Las Vegas. Both AJ McInerney and Zane Thomas made the traveling team for the event in addition to Senior Kevin Penner, junior Blake Biddle, and sophomore Carl Johnson. –By Brian Hurlburt

McInerney played at Las Vegas' Coronado High School while Thomas played at Las Vegas' Arbor View High School. Both were standouts as juniors and high school players. “He has a very high golf IQ," Coronado Coach Joe Sawaia told us recently about McInerny. "He understands how to play and manage his game. It’s easy to play and post a score when your swing feels good, but he has the ability to post a good score even when he isn’t playing well. He reminds me of a professional in that respect. And that is an intangible that you can’t teach and it is very rare in a golfer of his age. He also has the ability to envision the correct shot nearly every time. His strengths are his work ethic, his golf IQ, and his competitiveness. He also has all of the physical tools and he has world class hands. He drives it straight, can hit his long irons well, and is a short game wizard. The bottom line is that AJ knows how to turn a 76 into a 72 while most players his age know how to turn a 72 into a 76.”

The tournament will be played Wednesday-Friday, Feb. 20-22, at Turtle Bay Resort’s Arnold Palmer Course (par 72, 7,218 yards) in Kahuku, Hawaii. The event features a 15-team field with three teams currently ranked in Golfweek’s Top 25: No. 1 California, No. 4 New Mexico and No. 25 Texas A&M. The rest of the field includes Arizona, BYU, BYU-Hawaii, Colorado State, Denver, Hawaii, Hawaii-Hilo, Nevada, Reno, UNLV, UTEP, Utah and Washington State.

California is the two-time defending Burns Intercollegiate champion. UNLV finished tied for second last year, seven shots back at 10-under 854. The Rebels were led by Penner and Biddle, who finished tied for sixth and eighth, respectively. Duke’s Julian Suri earned medalist honors at 11-under.

Live scoring of the tournament will be available off a link at, courtesy of Golfstat.

UNLV played in five events during the fall season, recording four top-four finishes or better. The Rebels are coming off a second-place showing at the Herb Wimberly Intercollegiate, which was played in Las Cruces, N.M., in October. Biddle was the only Rebel to record an individual win during the fall season (Wimberly Intercollegiate), finishing with three top-10 finishes, including two top-fives. Penner finished in the top-10 in all four of his events, including two top-fives and a second-place showing at the PING Golfweek Preview Invitational, while McInerney also had a second-place finish at the Jack Nicklaus Invitational.

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