Las Vegas, Nevada (March 12, 2015)–Year after year, the Southern Highlands Collegiate Masters shines as the top golf tournament on the collegiate golf schedule. The list of teams and players who tee it up at the pretigious Southern Highlands Golf Club during the UNLV golf home tournament reads like a who’s who of college golf power rankings. In 2015, the pre-season top-ranked team in America, the Texas Longhorns, came to Vegas and put together three days of stellar golf to win the tournament by 10 shots over the University of Oklahoma. Alabama sophomore Robby Shelton was 15-under par and won the individual title. UNLV finished in a tie for 10th with SMU. –By Brian Hurlburt.
The 2015 edition of the Collegiate Masters featured 10 of the top-25 teams in the country as part of the 15-team field (Bushnell Golfweek Coaches Poll), while all 15 teams competing were ranked in the nation’s top 50 (Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings). Additionally, 19 of the top-50 ranked individuals in the country played (Golfweek/Sagarin).
“I believe it’s very important to bring the best of the best to our hometown, and that’s what happens each year at the Southern Highlands Collegiate Masters when many of the best amateur golfers in the world come to Las Vegas to play,” says UNLV Hall of Fame Golf Coach Dwaine Knight. “This is the one invite that coaches and players want to get each year, and the coaches tell me that this is the best tournament of the year, even ranking higher than the NCAA Finals. That’s very humbling to hear. The dream that we had many years ago about creating this tournament and what the Las Vegas Founders Club helped us acheive has come true. To have a host site like Southern Highlands has given the event it’s own aura. Southern Highlands is an outstanding host and they take pride in setting up a championship course and setting each year.”
Knight credited the qualitying system to earn an invite to play in the tournament as part of the reason the event has become so prestigious. The top five teams in the Southern Highlands Collegiate Masters each year earn invitations for the following year as do the top five finishers from the NCAA Finals. Knight also extends four or five at-large invitations annually. Then once the 15 teams get to Southern Highlands, some of the best golf of the year is played. And the new champs from Texas demonstated plenty of quality play during the event that featured perfect weather and conditions.
This season, Texas was the pick heading into the season to be the best team in college golf and feature two of the top freshman in the country. They just might be peaking at the correct time heading into the final stretch of the spring season and into the playoffs. The win in Las Vegas was the second in a row for the Longhorns, and also helped heal some old wounds from tough finishes in previous Southern Highlands Collegiate Masters tournaments.
“I was very pleased to get a victory,” Texas head coach John Fields told Golfweek Magazine writer Cassie Stein. “We’ve left here stinging so many times, and now, this is a much better feeling. Winning at two top courses in Sawgrass Country Club (John Hayt Invitational) and Southern Highlands Golf Club, signals you have good things going on,” Fields said. “We need to continue to capitalize on this success and keep going with what were doing.”
The hometown Rebels–who had won the event seven times in 10 years–could never get on track. They fired a team total of 2-over par. UNLV was led by senior Kurt Kitayama, who finished tied for 11th at 3-under 213 after a final-round 2-under 70. Rebel sophomore Redford Bobbitt, who played as an individual and was the co-leader after the first and second rounds, finished tied for 18th at 2-under. He shot 6-over on the final day of the tournament.
Other Rebel scores: junior AJ McInerney, who played as an individual, and senior Nicholas Maruri both tied for 34th at 1-over, freshman Ben Davis, who played as an individual, tied for 39th at 2-over, senior Carl Jonson tied for 43rd at 3-over, freshman Shinatro Ban, who played as an individual, tied for 48th at 4-over, freshman John Oda tied for 64th at 8-over, while sophomore Chris Tuulik, who played as an individual, and sophomore Taylor Montgomery both tied for 66th at 9-over.