A familiar face has stepped back onto the University of La Verne campus this semester, after an absence of three years.
Whether you find him in his office in the Dwight Hanawalt Football Complex or out on the golf course, Eric Riehle is back in the athletics department, as head coach of the men and women’s golf team once again.
Riehle succeeds Chris Davis, who held the position for three years.
“I’m really excited about being back. I loved this place from my earlier time here,” Riehle said.
“There’s something about the mission statement that President (Devorah) Lieberman has set forth, as far as lifelong learning,” he said.
Riehle was first hired as head coach at La Verne by athletic director Julie Kline for the 2009-10 season, after he served as associate head coach for the Leopards.
Then in 2012, he continued his coaching career at UC Riverside.
In August, Kline announced Riehle’s return to the La Verne program.
“Eric was here before at the University and he is a very experienced and proven leader and absolutely a wonderful human being,” Kline said.
“So I knew, by hiring him, we were in very good hands and our student athletes are in very good hands,” she said.
Going up against a solid pool of candidates with good experience, Riehle had to earn the position just like any other candidate.
Kline believes that with his experience as a coach will improve the program.
“With just his experience as a coach and then understanding the University of La Verne and who we are gives him a head start in his return here, so its been a very good and smooth transition, like I expected,” Kline said.
“He has taken the reins of the program and taking off, so we’re excited for the season coming up.”
During his time as head coach, he led the men’s golf team to four Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Championships.
He also led the team to four NCAA National Championship appearances from 2009-12. In his first season, his team finished second at the NCAA Championships.
“It’s obviously great when you win, and it’s even better when you do it as a team. It’s a great opportunity with golf that you get to succeed as a team,” Riehle said.
“In junior golf, it’s individual, and in professional golf, the levels around it are all individual based. So if you talk to anybody who had success in college as a team, it’s probably one of the best experiences they’ve had,” he said.
He was named the 2011 Division III West Region Coach of the Year.
Riehle then took his coaching talents to his alma mater, UC Riverside, where he spent a season as the head coach of the men and women’s golf teams.
He spent two seasons as the director of golf and head coach of the men’s golf team. In his first season at UC Riverside, he led the men’s team to a top three finish.
Riehle grew up playing many different sports, but he said golf gave him a different perspective that helped him gain patience, good mental skills and toughness.
“I enjoyed the individual aspect of golf, that everything was on my shoulders, and I think you’re continually learning in this game,” Riehle said.
“Now looking back on it, I think what’s most of attractive about the game is how it relates and kind of teaches everybody who plays it for a significant amount of time a lot of life lessons,” he said.
After playing throughout high school, and progressing as a better player, he earned a walk-on spot at UC Riverside.
Riehle graduated from UC Riverside in 2005 with a bachelor’s degree in liberal studies with a minor in education.
There, he was a four-year letterman in golf, and an All-Big West performer.
Right after he graduated, he got his coaching start as an assistant men and women’s golf coach as a part-time job at UC Riverside.
His full-time job was assistant director of instruction at the Oak Valley Golf Academy for four years.
“I always wanted to be in college golf, and in 2008, I got the opportunity to coach at La Verne, and I believe I’ll be coaching college golf for the rest of my career,” he said.
Being back at La Verne, Riehle is hoping to sink a hole-in-one with the team with different goals for both the men and women’s team.
“On the women’s side, we’re just getting things established. We have a great group of women, who are hard working, and we’re trying to set our mark in the conference and just progress from there,” Riehle said.
“On the men’s side, we have a completely new team, so there’s a lot of new talent there, and I’m sure we’re going to be able to make great strides and play our best golf by the end of the season,” he said.
Returning golfer, Alec Spencer, junior, said one of Riehle’s biggest trait is being efficient and that everything they do as a team has a purpose to it.
He said Riehle makes sure they all stay on the same page.
“I expect to get better as the season goes on,” Spencer said.
“It seems like we’re a brand new team. Bunch of new players, and a new coach, so it might take us a little while to get going, but toward the end of the year, we’ll be right where we should be,” he said.
If he is not on the golf course or making game strategies in his office, Riehle is enjoying nature, either hiking or fishing, or just spending quality time with his wife and four-month old twins.
“I really enjoy seeking knowledge and thinking and figuring out this life that we live in,” he said.
The men’s golf team was put to the test last weekend, as they competed in SCIAC No. 1 at the Tukwet Canyon Champions Course in Beaumont.
The Leopards finished in seventh place, as they shot a total of 661 over two rounds.
Spencer led La Verne, and shot 13-over 85 in the first round.
In the second round, he shot five-over 77, the second best score of the round, and place 11th overall.
La Verne hits the course once again Feb. 22-23 at the Coyote Classic in San Bernardino.
Jolene Nacapuy can be reached at email@example.com.