Nicholas Maruri knows his way around a doctor’s office almost as well as he does a golf course.
The UNLV junior from Mexico has suffered a broken left wrist and right ankle in the past two years, compromising his time on the course. But Maruri now is healthy and will be in the lineup today when the Rebels begin play in the NCAA Regional at Sugar Grove, Ill., their 26th consecutive NCAA appearance.
Maruri is talented and gives UNLV a big lift when he’s healthy. Last month, he made his first appearance of the spring at the Mountain West championships after breaking his right ankle in a car accident last summer. He shot 3-under-par 68 on the final day at Tucson National Golf Club for the Rebels, who finished third.
And as the team prepares for regional play, it does so with all its components in place.
“I think being back takes some of the pressure off the rest of the guys,” Maruri said. “There were a lot of questions as to whether I could even make it back, so it was a bit of a wild card for the team.
“And to play so well in Tucson, that gave me a lot of confidence.”
Maruri said he still does rehabilitation daily on his ankle. Per NCAA rules, he must walk the course, but will be allowed to use a pull cart instead of having to carry his clubs in the 54-hole event at Rich Harvest Farms.
Still, for someone who’s still not 100 percent, it’s a challenge just getting around the course.
“It’s getting better every day,” Maruri said. “There’s still some lingering pain. I wrap it when I play, and I ice it as soon as I get off the course. But once I’m out there, I just block everything out and focus on the next shot.”
UNLV coach Dwaine Knight said he has learned to never count out Maruri.
“When he broke his wrist last year after going snowboarding during winter break, I thought we lost him for the season,” Knight said. “But he came back and really helped us in the postseason. So when he broke his ankle in the car accident, I thought, ‘If anyone is going to come back from an injury like that, it’s going to be Nico.’ But then when they had to reset the ankle a second time, I wasn’t sure we’d have him.
“He’s just a really tough kid. And when he’s playing well, he really makes us a much better team. His experience will be big for us.”
Maruri said he didn’t know what to expect from his game. But everything clicked a few weeks ago during the team’s in-house qualifying rounds to determine the lineup for the conference tournament.
“I asked myself that same question,” Maruri said. “My ball-striking is as good, maybe better, than it’s ever been, and my tempo is good. Maybe in a way it was a blessing to have that time off and not be able to play. It has probably kept me fresher, both physically and mentally.”
The Rebels are seeded fifth in the regional, one of six being contested in the next three days. The top five teams in each regional will advance to the NCAA championships, May 23 to 28 in Hutchinson, Kan.
Last year, UNLV finished fourth in the Columbus, Ohio, regional, then reached the Elite Eight match play at nationals. Maruri was part of that team and will be joined this year by juniors Carl Jonson and Kurt Kitayama and sophomores AJ McInerney and Zane Thomas.
“We’ve got four guys who played in nationals last year, and we’re hungry to get back,” Maruri said. “But we have a lot of confidence going in, and even though we’ve never played the course, we know if we play smart and consistent, we can compete with anyone.”
Contact reporter Steve Carp at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter: @stevecarprj.