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UNLV men’s golf team taking momentum into nationals

Updated May 25, 2017 - 8:37 pm

If momentum in baseball is the next day’s starting pitcher, in golf it’s the next course.

Even so, a team would rather be playing well than not heading into the NCAA Championship, and few teams are hitting it straighter or more accurate than UNLV.

The 19th-ranked Rebels are coming off victories in the Mountain West and NCAA regional tournaments.

“I think it helps a lot if you’ve been playing well,” UNLV coach Dwaine Knight said. “Our team’s had a really solid year. We’ve been competing for a lot of tournaments this year. We’ve got three wins and a whole bunch of third and second places (six). That means you’re very competitive for the tournament.”

The national tournament is scheduled for Friday through Wednesday at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, Illinois. UNLV is seeded 12th in the 30-team field.

But this is a course, that in more than 7,000 yards, is similar in length to the regional course in West Lafayette, Indiana, where the Rebels won the regional.

UNLV is loaded at the top, with Shintaro Ban (2-under par), John Oda (1-under) and Harry Hall (even) placing in the top six at the Purdue course. The Rebels also will need players such Justin Kim and Taylor Montgomery to produce.

“Our top three are about as good as any in the country, and they’ve been really solid,” Knight said. “But (players) four and five are going to have to contribute, and hopefully we’ll get some help out of them. If we do, I think we have a really good chance to have a big week.”

The Rebels are looking for the second national championship in school history. Their lone title came in 1998.

Not that they haven’t had championship-worthy teams.

UNLV was seeded first in the country in the 2005 regular season, but finished eighth at nationals. The Rebels tied for third in 2010 in the regular season, and were 21st in the NCAAs. UNLV won five tournaments in 2012, and didn’t make nationals.

The Rebels know for all they have accomplished, what matters now is what happens over the next six days.

“We try to do things at a high level — all of our workouts, all of our preparation, all of our qualifying,” Knight said. “We try to make that a standard throughout the whole season, so when we get to postseason, nothing’s different. It was that way at conference. We knew it was going to be a really tight test. We had so many one- or two-shot losses in the conference, but we felt we had a good team. We were down with a few holes to go, but they played it out, and we ended up getting the win.

“I think that momentum moved over to regionals, and we were playing some great golf early in the round and middle of the round, and didn’t play so well at the end of the round. Our guys just kept pounding away at it, and we ended up getting the win there. I think that’s the maturity of the team, I think that’s the focus of the team — that we’re going to keep playing no matter what happens. A lot of times, those turn into victories when you think you’re kind of out of it.”

Contact Mark Anderson at manderson@reviewjournal.com. Follow @markanderson65 on Twitter.

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