UNLV had hoped to stay in the West for next week’s NCAA men’s golf regionals. Instead, the Rebels will head to Illinois for the Sugar Grove Regional in their quest to qualify for the NCAA Championships.
The 81-team field — three 14-team regionals and three 13-team regionals — was announced Monday. Sugar Grove is one of six NCAA regional sites, with play scheduled for May 15 to 17. The top five teams in each regional will advance to the nationals, May 23 to 28 at Prairie Dunes Country Club in Hutchinson, Kan.
The Rebels, seeded No. 5 in their 14-team regional, will face some familiar teams at Rich Harvest Farms, most notably top-seeded California and third-seeded Southern California.
“I thought the selection committee was very fair and did a good job,” UNLV coach Dwaine Knight said. “There’s a lot of very good teams, and they balanced the regions well. I think we’re seeded about where we should be.”
Also in the field are second-seeded Illinois, fourth-seeded Alabama-Birmingham, Clemson, Kent State, Purdue, Mississippi State, Cal State Fullerton, New Mexico State, Jacksonville State, Cleveland State and Saint Peter’s.
“We’re in a very competitive regional,” Knight said. “Obviously, with Cal at the top, we’re very familiar with them. And SC is very good, as are Illinois and UAB. We’ve played with New Mexico State, so we know them, and we’ve seen several of the other teams, too.
“We haven’t played the course, but we’ll get a practice round in next Wednesday, and we should be fine.”
UNLV is coming off a third-place finish in the Mountain West championships at Arizona’s Tucson National Golf Club. But the Rebels played their best golf in the final round, shooting a team total of 8-under-par 276, the top one-round score of the three-day tournament.
Knight hopes the momentum carries over into the regional.
“It does give us some positive momentum,” he said. “We feel that was a good team we had out there at conference, and we’ll keep that same group together for regionals.”
That group is juniors Carl Jonson, Kurt Kitayma and Nicholas Maruri and sophomores AJ McInerney and Zane Thomas.
“We’re probably playing our best golf as a team right now,” Knight said. “This is the time of the year you want to peak, and I like where we are with our guys. If we can just be consistent, we can have success at the regionals and get to nationals.”
Contact reporter Steve Carp at email@example.com or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter: @stevecarprj.