On a day in which major moves were made at the NCAA Men’s Golf Championship, UNLV couldn’t keep up and play its way into contention.
The Rebels, despite getting a 3-under-par 67 round from senior Kevin Penner, shot 4-over 284 Wednesday at the Capital City Club in Milton, Ga. They are tied for 21st with UCLA at 10-over 570 after two rounds.
The top eight teams in the 30-team field will advance to match play when the 54-hole stroke play portion of the tournament concludes today. UNLV trails eighth-place Texas A&M by 10 shots; six schools are within four strokes of eighth.
Georgia Tech sits atop the leaderboard at 12-under 548, one stroke ahead of California. Defending champion Texas trails by two shots and Alabama by three.
“We’re going to need a miracle,” UNLV coach Dwaine Knight said. “Consistency has been a problem for us all year, and at this level, a lack of it can really cost you.”
The Rebels, who began the round in a five-way tie for 14th, started from the 10th tee and made the turn at 1 under. But with Cal, Alabama, Texas, Arkansas and Texas A&M playing Capital City’s Crabapple Course well below par, UNLV needed to pick up the pace on its final nine holes.
But as was the case Tuesday, those final nine holes were a nightmare for the Rebels.
Sophomore Kurt Kitayama, who had been steady on the front side, bogeyed three of the first five holes on the back nine and finished at 2-over 72. Sophomore Carl Jonson had three bogeys on the back nine — he also had three on the front — and finished with a 74. Freshman AJ McInerney posted a 77 that did not count against the team score.
Junior Nicholas Maruri recovered from an opening 76 with a 71.
“We’ve had some good stretches of golf, but the bad stretches have really hurt us, and these last two days the bad stretches have come on the back nine,” Knight said. “We have a game plan, but when you can’t put the ball where you need to, it changes everything, and we’ve had trouble adjusting.”
Not everyone. Penner is tied for ninth at 4-under 136, three strokes behind leader Jon Rahm of Arizona State. Rahm followed his scorching 61 with a 72 and has a one-stroke lead over Arkansas’ Nicolas Echavarria and Central Florida’s Greg Eason. Fourteen players are within three shots of the lead.
“I’m trying to play smart, and I’m aiming for the middle of the green instead of shooting at pins, and it has been pretty stress-free,” Penner said. “It’s frustrating to see where we are as a team, but hopefully we can pull it together.”
Added Knight: “We’re going to try to put a big round together and hope we can get a lot of help.”
Contact reporter Steve Carp at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter: @stevecarprj.