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No. 7 UNLV men’s golf team heads to regionals minus recovering coach

For a record 24th consecutive year, the UNLV men’s golf team is participating in the NCAA Tournament. But the Rebels will be playing without their coach.

Dwaine Knight is sidelined following successful surgery last week to remove melanoma from his right foot. Assistant coach JC Deacon will oversee the team in North Carolina as No. 7-ranked UNLV competes in the 54-hole NCAA Greensboro Regional beginning Thursday at the Grandover Resort’s East Course.

The top five teams in the 14-team field advance to the NCAA Championships at Riviera Country Club in Los Angeles, set for May 29 through June 3. UNLV is seeded No. 2 behind Auburn in its regional.

“I’ll have to juggle things a little bit and not be so stationary,” Deacon said. “But we have an experienced group of guys, so we should be all right.”

Because of his job, Knight spends a considerable amount of time outdoors, and he usually takes extra precaution to avoid direct contact with the sun, wearing long-sleeved shirts and a hat and lathering himself in sunscreen. But to have skin cancer on his foot was unusual.

“I was fortunate that (doctors) found it early,” Knight said from his home. “I had a full body scan done, and that’s how it showed up. It’s very rare, but they got it all. I just can’t move around too well. My foot is in a boot, so unfortunately I have to sit this one out.”

Deacon said the players have rallied around their coach and want to keep the season going. “The best thing they can do for Coach is to bring back a good result,” Deacon said.

Despite a disappointing third-place finish at the Mountain West Conference championship on May 6, Deacon believes the run of success the Rebels have enjoyed this year – including five wins and two runner-up finishes – should give the team confidence in what will be a pressure-filled event far away from home. They will be playing a course they’re unfamiliar with, and that provides another challenge.

“We’ve got seven guys who are pretty upset about what happened in Tucson,” Deacon said of their Mountain West performance. “They’re angry, and they’ve worked twice as hard to get ready for the NCAAs.

“As far as being unfamiliar with the course, we just have to go out and play our game. As a golfer, that’s something you just have to adapt to. But these guys know how to do it. They’ll adjust out there.”

UNLV will play senior Derek Ernst, a Ben Hogan Award finalist, junior Kevin Penner, sophomore Blake Biddle and freshmen Carl Jonson and Kurt Kitayama.

Contact reporter Steve Carp at scarp@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2913. Follow him on Twitter: @stevecarprj.

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