For a team that dominates much of the time, surprisingly, winning a conference title has not been a regular occurrence. But that changes this week when the UNLV men’s golf team won the Mountain West conference title for the first time since 2002. The Rebels won their third MW team title after shooting a final-round-low 9-under 279 on Sunday, winning the tournament by three shots over New Mexico at the Catalina Course at Omni Tucson National Resort. –By Brian Hurlburt.
What made the win even more memorable was that the Rebels did it without senior captain AJ McInerney who was injured last week. It is still undetermined when he can return. The Rebels are scorching as a team, winning won three of its last four events with a second-place showing during that span. Overall, the Rebels have captured four team titles in 11 events this season. The Rebels, who had finished in second or third place in each of the last seven MW tournaments, recorded the lowest team score in both the second and third rounds.
“We were just really happy to be able to win a ring for AJ (McInerney),” UNLV head coach Dwaine Knight said. “Obviously with him being our team captain and not being able to participate, it was a real focal point for the guys to get him that before he graduates. Of course, I am also proud of the team having such a stellar performance this weekend. We have had a lot of heartbreak at this tournament in the past, losing by just one shot several times. So for us to be able to come through this time, it really is a sweet victory.”
UNLV came from two shots back as the final round began and finished the 54-hole event at 18-under 846. New Mexico finished in second at 15-under, while Fresno State finished third at 5-under. San Diego State and Colorado State tied for fourth at 4-under to round out the top five.
“We are really playing at a high level right now,” Knight said. “One of the things that has really helped us during this stretch is that the low scores are very competitive, but our high scores have been around 72 or 73. That is where you really are good as a team. We have had that during this run and that is great to see.”
UNLV senior Zane Thomas finished in a three-way tie for third at 6-under 210 after a final-round 5-under 67. Rebel sophomore John Oda and freshman Harry Hall also finished in the top 10 individually as they both tied for eighth at 4-under 212. Oda shot even-par 72 during the final round, while Hall fired a 4-under 68.
Other Rebel players: sophomore Shintaro Ban tied for 15th at 2-under 214 after a final-round 1-over 73 and sophomore Ben Davis tied for 22nd at 1-over 217 after a final-round even-par 72.
The field for the 2016 NCAA Men’s Golf Regionals will be announced on the Golf Channel on Thursday, May 5.