No. 11 UNLV Set To Host SHCM This Weekend

March 7, 2012

LAS VEGAS (UNLVRebels.com) - Many of the nation's top collegiate golf programs will showcase their talent this weekend at the Southern Highlands Collegiate Masters, which will take place Friday-Sunday, March 9-11, at Southern Highlands Golf Club in Las Vegas (par 72, 7,510 yards).

The public is encouraged to attend the tournament and admission is free.

This prestigious event annually lures the country's best college golf teams and each year ranks at or near the top of the collegiate golf schedule in terms of strength of field.

"Once again we have a great field for this event," UNLV head coach Dwaine Knight said. "The Southern Highlands Collegiate Masters is the top tournament in the country year after year, and this year will be no exception. The level of competition will be outstanding."

The 2012 edition of the SHCM will feature 11 of the top-25 teams in the country, according to Golfstat. Of that group, three teams are ranked in the top five and five are in the top 10. Additionally, six of the top-seven ranked individuals in the country will be playing.

Participating teams include Alabama (3), Arizona State (70), California (7), Duke (20), Florida (23), New Mexico State (73), Oklahoma State (24), Stanford (12), TCU (44), Texas (1), Texas A&M (17), Texas Tech (37), UCLA (5), UNLV (11) and USC (6).

"We will have our hands full," Knight said. "For the first round we are paired with Texas and Alabama, so that will be great to play with teams of their caliber. We are really looking forward to getting started."

The 54-hole tournament will be played over three days, with tee times beginning at 8 a.m. each morning off the No. 1 and No. 10 holes.

Oklahoma State won last year's SHCM by seven shots at 1-under 863, and Morgan Hoffmann (Oklahoma State) won medalist honors by two shots at 10-under 206. UNLV finished seventh last year with now-senior Derek Ernst turning in the Rebels' top finish, which was a tie for ninth at 3-over.

Since the event was moved to Southern Highlands in 2002, UNLV has won the title outright four times and in 2010 tied for first with UCLA.

UNLV's lineup this weekend will consist of Ernst, who is ranked as the sixth-best individual in the country, junior Kevin Penner, sophomore Blake Biddle, and freshmen Carl Jonson and Kurt Kitayama. Junior Arthur Kim and senior Colby Smith will compete as individuals.

Ernst has finished in the top 15 in all six of his events this year, including four top fives. Penner, ranked 31st, has five top-six finishes this year, including wins at the Gene Miranda Falcon Invitational and the Wyoming Desert Intercollegiate, while Biddle has not finished outside the top 25 and has three top 10s. Johnson has five top-30 finishes. Sophomore Nicholas Maruri was in the starting lineup in each of UNLV's four fall events, posting three top-15 finishes, but severely injured his wrist after the fall season and is out of action this spring. He has been replaced in the lineup this spring by Kitayama, who has one top-20 finish in two events.

In their first six starts this season, the Rebels have won four times, while adding a second- and a sixth-place finish. In three of their wins, they set tournament scoring records. Two of those came in the fall when UNLV shot 20-under and beat Colorado in a playoff at the Gene Miranda Falcon Invitational and when it shot 34-under to capture the Herb Wimberly Intercollegiate.

The Rebels added a third with a 20-under performance last month at the Wyoming Desert Intercollegiate. They also won the Tucker Invitational and placed sixth at the Jerry Pate National Intercollegiate in the fall and opened the spring with a second-place finish at the John Burns Intercollegiate in Hawaii.

"We are very happy with the progress of our team," Knight said. "We have been playing at a high level, so it will be exciting to have all these great teams on our home course. It will be a great measuring stick for us in terms of where we are as a program at this point in the season. Playing against the best teams and best players in the country is exactly what we need.

"The golf course at Southern Highlands is in awesome shape and will definitely identify a great team this weekend."

Live scoring of the tournament will be available on the internet courtesy of Golfstat through a link at UNLVRebels.com.