Albuquerque, N.M. – It was a lucky seventh for the UNLV golf team. The top-ranked Rebels, under head coach Dwaine Knight, withstood a final-round rally from Clemson and won their first-ever NCAA men’s golf title by three shots at the University of New Mexico’s Championship Golf Course (par 72, 2,748 yards). It marked only the second team national championship for UNLV in any sport as the men’s basketball team won in 1990.
The Rebels, who won their record-breaking seventh tournament of the season, shot a final-round one-over-par 289 and finished the tournament at 34-under-par 1,118, setting the record for the lowest total in NCAA Championships history. The old mark was 23-under par, which was set by Arizona in 1992 and repeated by Stanford in 1994. UNLV also broke the NCAA Championships record for lowest score after the second-round. The Rebels were at 23-under par after the 36-hole cut, eclipsing the old mark set by Stanford in 1994 at 11-under.
Knight, whose best finish before this year at the NCAA Championships was second in 1996, then failed to make the cut in 1997, led his team to the title in only his 10th try with the Rebels.
“This year we have won when we were ahead going into the final round, when we were coming from behind and when we were even,” Knight said. “The experience that we gained during the year really helped today. When you win a lot, you get comfortable with the fact that it will always come down to the final holes. It did today and we were ready.”
Knight was also impressed with the way his team battled from the very beginning of the season and persevered. “After not making the cut last year and losing the players we did, for this team to gain the No. 1 spot again, coming in expected to win, and with the pressure, holding on for the victory makes me very proud.”
Clemson finished 31-under par in second place, while Georgia Tech was second at 30-un-der, Oklahoma State was fourth at 25-under and Arizona State rounds out the top five, finishing 22-under par.
Freshman James McLean of Minnesota shot a final-round 69 and hung on for the individual championship at 17-under-par 271.
UNLV junior Chris Berry, who had a night-mare of a tournament in 1996, as he finished dead last, led the Rebels and finished in a tie for second place one shot back at 16-under.
“I am so proud of Chris,” Knight said. “For him to come back and lead us to victory after his previous NCAA performance is just so special.”
“One of the things that made me play so well was looking at the scoreboards,” Berry said. “When the team went low in the second round I kept looking at the updates on the board and we kept getting lower and lower. It really fired me up and I just wanted to help the team.”