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Former Rebel Finkelstein settling into life on LPGA Tour

Dana Finkelstein is a legend at UNLV. She left the Rebels in 2015 as the most successful golfer the women’s program has seen, setting new standards for scoring, victories and finishing second in the Annika Award, given to the top player in the country.

Success as a pro hasn’t come as easily. But as she wraps up her fourth season on the LPGA Tour, Finkelstein has settled in to the routine.

“It’s been a good year,” Finkelstein said earlier this month from New Jersey, where she added her fourth top-20 finish of the year at the ShopRite LPGA Classic. “I feel really good about my game and where everything is at.”

That result in New Jersey likely secured her playing privileges for 2022. She stands 95th on the money list with one full-field event remaining, and a top-100 finish will get her into almost every tournament next year.

It’s taken Finkelstein a little time to settle into the nomadic life of a tour player, but she feels she’s there now.

“I’m much more comfortable with the travel and demands,” she said. “I manage my time a lot better.”

She’s also managing her nerves better. In 2017 and 2019, her first years on the LPGA Tour, Finkelstein admits to butterflies playing with the biggest stars in golf.

“I was out there next to my idols, and it made me nervous,” she said. “Now I know I belong out here.”

So does Amy Bush-Herzer, Finkelstein’s coach at UNLV and her biggest cheerleader. Bush-Herzer knew early on that Finkelstein would become a successful pro thanks to her unmatched work ethic and her creativity to see and hit shots others wouldn’t attempt.

“I knew after her first win,” Bush-Herzer said. “This train wasn’t going to stop.”

Finkelstein said her success in college in some ways has slowed her progress as a pro.

“In college you’re trying to play well for your team,” she said. “In many ways, you put yourself last.”

But as a pro, it’s exclusively about you, she said. Travel, practice, meals and everything else that’s taken care of by someone else in college is now on your shoulders.

“You have to look out for yourself,” she said. “It can be stressful, but I’m enjoying it.”

Finkelstein is looking ahead to 2022 when she hopes to get into contention more often. And she’ll do it with everyone in the UNLV program sending her support.

“Dana was a program changer for us,” Bush-Herzer said, noting her success has allowed UNLV to continue to attract top players from Finkelstein’s native Arizona to the program.

For Finkelstein’s part, she continues to follow UNLV and offer her support, even from a distance. It’s the least she can do, she said, considering how she is remembered at the school.

“I’m always happy to help,” she said. “It’s cool to have left a mark.”

Chip shots

— With two top-10 finishes to start his season, Collin Morikawa has moved up to No. 2 just behind Jon Rahm in the Official World Golf Rankings. The Las Vegas resident jumped over Dustin Johnson this week, making him the highest-ranked American player.

— Three Las Vegas residents made it through second-stage qualifying for the Korn Ferry Tour last week. Peter Kuest, Alex Kang and Kyler Dunkle were among the 109 players at five locations who will move on to the Korn Ferry Q-School Finals Nov. 4-7 in Savannah, Georgia.

— The Marine Corps Law Enforcement Foundation’s 15th annual Las Vegas charity golf tournament is set for Nov. 8 at SouthShore CC in Henderson. The group raises money primarily for scholarships for children of fallen Marines or law enforcement. To register or donate, contact Mike Tobey at mrtees39@gmail.com.

Greg Robertson covers golf for the Review-Journal. He can be reached at grobertson@reviewjournal.com.

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