UNLV golf team ready for opener

When UNLV’s men’s golf team tees it up today at Arizona National Golf Club to begin its spring season, the Rebels will do so without a two-time All-America selection.

Senior Jarred Texter will not be in the lineup for the two-day PING Arizona Intercollegiate in Tucson. Texter has been struggling with his game and suggested coach Dwaine Knight replace him for the important season-opening 54-hole tournament.

“I’m going through a swing change, and I’m not real comfortable right now,” Texter said. “I need a little more time to work on my game. So I went to Coach and suggested he use someone who’s playing better.

“It’s a little frustrating and disappointing given it’s my last semester at UNLV. But I don’t want to hurt the team.”

Knight appreciated Texter’s unselfishness, and he hopes the Rebels’ depth will compensate for his absence.

“It takes a big person to give up his spot,” Knight said. “Right now Jarred is not playing as well as we had hoped, so he’s not going to Tucson. But he’s going to help us this spring, and I’m very proud of him for doing what he did in putting the team first.”

Freshman Ji Moon will take Texter’s spot. Also in the lineup will be seniors C.J. Gatto and Matt Kinsinger, sophomore Eddie Olson and junior Seung-su Han, who opted to return to UNLV rather than turn pro after nearly earning his PGA Tour card at Qualifying School last month.

“We still have some experience, and we’ve had success at this tournament,” Knight said.

UNLV is the defending champion, having won last year with a team total of 23-under-par 829 as Gatto shot a 9-under 204 for the 54 holes.

The Rebels are coming off a fall season in which they were shorthanded but still finished in the top five in three of five events. The Rebels won the team title in the Shootout at Angel Park, were third at the Jerry Pate National Intercollegiate and took fourth at the Turtle Bay Intercollegiate.

Knight said the spring season brings a chance to build on the team’s fall success and reach its ultimate goal — a return to the NCAA championships in late May at Purdue University.

“It’s not often we don’t find ourselves at the finals, so it definitely left us with an empty feeling,” Knight said of the 2007 squad’s failure to qualify, missing by two strokes. “I think the guys have used it as motivation, and this group has had a tremendous work ethic. It’s a hard-working group.”

UNLV, which won the national title in 1998, has missed the NCAA championships only three times since 1989. Knight said the key for his team to make it back this year will be its ability to take better advatange of scoring opportunities and avoid double and triple bogeys.

“You want to stay away from the big numbers because they’re hard to overcome,” Knight said. “Bogeys, you can live with. It’s the doubles and triples that are tough to come back from.”

Contact reporter Steve Carp at scarp@ or (702) 387-2913.

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