Eddie Olson was away from competitive golf for two months, but the UNLV senior didn’t forget how to play.
Olson, who had been grounded by coach Dwaine Knight to get his academics in order, returned to the Rebels on Friday at the Southern Highlands Collegiate Masters and had his team’s best score — a 2-under-par 70. He’s two shots out of the lead, trailing Florida’s Tyson Alexander and Texas Christian’s Johan de Beer, who both shot 4-under 68.
Olson’s teammates didn’t fare as well, with Derek Ernst shooting a 2-over 74, Brett Kanda a 75 and Jeremiah Wooding a 77 as UNLV came limping in at 8-over 299. The Rebels are tied for fourth with Southern California in the 15-team field entering today’s second round, seven shots behind leader Florida, which posted a 1-over 292.
“I was excited and nervous,” Olson said. “But it felt great to be back out there playing.”
Knight was elated by Olson’s performance. “I was glad to get him back in the mix,” Knight said. “It was a great round.
“We could have played Eddie earlier. He was eligible. But he’s so close to getting his degree, and it’s very important for him to finish what he started here, and I wanted him to understand that.”
Olson bogeyed the first two holes at Southern Highlands but birdied the par-5 No. 3 and made the turn at par.
“You can’t dwell on anything bad,” Olson said. “It was two holes out of 54.”
His back nine was excellent. He had two big par saves at Nos. 11 and 12, then made birdie at the par-5 13th, rolling in a 25-foot putt.
“Those were two of the best up-and-downs of my life,” Olson said of his play at 11 and 12.
He finished with a flourish, reaching the green at the mammoth 622-yard, 18th in two, then two-putting for his fourth birdie of the day and his 2-under round.
“It was tough out there,” said Olson, who played the four par-5s at 3 under. “The greens were hard and fast, and the pins were tucked away where you couldn’t really shoot at them. My experience of being a senior and knowing the course definitely helped me.”
Olson said he is back on track to graduate this spring and wants to end his UNLV career in a positive way.
“The biggest thing is to get to the national championship,” he said.
Contact reporter Steve Carp at email@example.com or 702-387-2913.