UNLV gains NCAA golf tourney bid

UNLV will be playing in the NCAA Men’s Golf Championships for the first time in three years.

The Rebels stamped their ticket to Atlanta for the May 28 to June 2 national tournament Saturday with a fourth-place finish in the Columbus Regional, played on the par-71 Scarlet Course at Ohio State University Golf Club. The top five teams in the 13-team regional advanced.

UNLV, which was tied for the lead after Friday’s second round, shot 10-over-par 294 Saturday to finish at 26-over 878, eight strokes behind regional champion and Mountain West rival New Mexico. Auburn and South Carolina tied for second at 872, and Texas Tech was fifth at 879.

“We’re happy to be moving on,” Rebels coach Dwaine Knight said. “We weren’t as sharp as we had been the first two days. But the guys kept fighting, and we’re excited about going to Atlanta.”

UNLV struggled early and fell seven shots off the pace after two holes.

“The course was still playing tough,” Knight said. “But we were able to regroup.”

Sophomore Carl Jonson, who had the individual lead after two rounds, struggled to a 5-over 76 and finished tied for seventh at 3-over 216. Freshman AJ McInerney led the Rebels in the final round with a 71 and finished tied for 18th at 220.

“He (McInerney) has been competing better, and he’s hitting the ball better,” Knight said. “This was a big round for him, and I hope he can use the momentum to play well at nationals.”

Senior Kevin Penner shot 74 and tied for 34th at 223; sophomore Kurt Kitayama shot 73 and tied for 37th at 224; and junior Nicholas Maruri shot 77 and tied for 43rd at 225.

New Mexico, which shot the low round of the day at 1-under 283, also had the individual champion in James Erkenbeck, who finished at 3-under 210.

UNLV will be playing for the national title for the first time since 2010 and only the second time in seven years. The Rebels played the host course — the Capital City Club — in September and tied for third in the Ping/Golfweek Preview.

“The good news is our guys played well when we were back there, so we have some familiarity with the course,” Knight said.

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

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