The men’s golf team ended its season with multiple strong performances, earning a trip to the NCAA Division III Championships May 15-18 in Greensboro, North Carolina.
La Verne was one of nine at-large teams that made it to the championships, and it was the team’s first trip since 2015.
“We had a great unit of 12 men all lifting the team,” head coach Eric Riehle said. “It was the culmination of a year’s work with the team and individual growth.”
Freshman Pitiluk Phanomchai led La Verne on the first day of competition, posting a 72. Junior Conner Davis sat two strokes behind Phanomchai.
Junior Hisham Hussein opened the tournament with 80, senior Aaron DiGiamarino with 82 and sophomore Henrik Skogseth shot an 85.
“I think with our team we are trying to compete against each other Hussein said. “We really push each other to play better.”
Although La Verne did not advance to the final two rounds of the tournament as a team, Davis shot up the leader board and qualified to compete as an individual.
The junior business administration major moved up 25 spots and shot a 70, his best round of the season, on day two. Davis finished the second day of the competition in 12th place.
He fell to 15th place after day three, with a round of 74.
On the final day of the tournament, Davis was on his game once again, shooting a 71 that vaulted him into a three-way tie for seventh place.
Riehle said that Davis is the best on the team at focusing and doing everything well with “the head.” He also said this was an advantage for a golfer playing on an unfamiliar course, rather than concentrating on technique.
“I loved being out there with my team and competing to win a national title,” Davis said. “We now know what it will take next year.”
Hussein said since Davis was the only one on the team to advance, they could not stay and watch him in person, but they were keeping track and watching him through an app.
“Overall we achieved a lofty goal of getting this group back to the NCAAs,” Riehle said. “I’m impressed with the collective accomplishments.”
Next year, the team will largely stay intact. DiGiamarino is the only player who will be lost to graduation.
The team looks strong for next season with three All-Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference performers coming back – Hussein and Phanomchai, who were named first team All-SCIAC, and Davis, who was named second team.
Hussein collected several awards during the season, including Lee Fulmer SCIAC Athlete of the Year, Academic All-American and being named to the Division III PING All-West Region Team.
The junior from San Dimas has been playing golf for six years and credits his hitting coach George Gankas for helping him improve his game.
“He helped minimize my misses and that helped me shoot lower scores,” Hussein said. “I’m pleased with my play this season. I have had a couple good tournaments, and of course some bad ones, but that’s golf.”
Riehle said that even though the team will have several good players coming back, there are no expectations set out for the team, but there is a good chance they will continue to have success on the course.
Mark Acosta can be reached at email@example.com.