Nation's best headed to Southern Highlands

Texas senior Dylan Frittelli

It has been a number of years since I’ve been to UNLV’s tournament, the Southern Highlands Collegiate Masters, so I’m pretty excited about getting back this coming weekend.

But that excitement goes beyond simply being away and out West for a weekend. Instead, it has to do with who and what I’ll see when I get to Southern Highlands Golf Club in Las Vegas.

This event has attracted one of the strongest fields in college golf, outside of the NCAA Championship. And when the tournament kicks off on the 7,510-yard, par-72 course, it undoubtedly will feature some of the best of the best in the game this season.

“This is the No. 1-ranked tournament in all of collegiate golf, so the teams that are coming are going to be the best in the country,” said Jamie Green, head coach at Duke, which is No. 16 in the latest Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings.

Green had equally high praise for Southern Highlands, which was one of the courses used for the PGA Tour stop in Las Vegas for a number of years.

“Any place that hosts or has hosted a stop on the PGA Tour is going to be a good course,” Green said. “Southern Highlands is the type of course that will test every part of the golfer’s game.”

This weekend, it will be testing the games of some of the country’s best college players. The 15-team field features 13 teams ranked among Golfweek’s top 50, including four of the top five, five of the top 10 and 10 of the top 25. All 15 teams are ranked inside the top 80.

Top-ranked Texas highlights the lineup, but will face some stiff competition as the likes of Alabama (3), USC (4) and UCLA (5) trying to unseat the Longhorns from their lofty position. Don’t overlook California (10), host UNLV (11), Stanford (12), Texas A&M (15), Duke (16), Oklahoma State (24) and Florida (25). Rounding things out are TCU (39), Texas Tech (42), Arizona State (67) and New Mexico State (79). With so much depth, Southern Highlands will be something of a preview of the postseason.

Texas has won four times this season, but is coming off a tie for sixth in Puerto Rico last month. Of course, the Longhorns played that one without freshman Jordan Spieth, their top player and also No. 1 in the Golfweek rankings.

On the other hand, Alabama is coming off its first victory after dominating the field in Puerto Rico with a 30-under-par performance for an 18-stroke victory.

UNLV also has four victories, including its most recent outing, the Wyoming Desert Classic. California, Duke, Florida, USC, Stanford, Texas A&M and Texas Tech have at least one victory this season.

College conference basketball championships certainly will grab the bulk of the national media attention this weekend. But you can bet that those who follow college golf will have their eyes on the Southern Highlands Collegiate Masters.

I can’t wait to be there and watch it all unfold.

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