They are ranked in the top 15 nationally in two polls and are trying to win their fifth Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference title in a row, yet they do not get recognized half as much as the other less successful teams on campus do.
Still, this does not stop the golf team from playing hard every day and preparing themselves for the next tournament.
“It doesn’t bother us,” head coach Eric Riehle said. “We know the nature of the sport that there won’t be as large of a following as football, basketball or baseball, but it’s nice to get some recognition for our hard work every once in a while.”
“It would be cool to be known but we’re going to play the game for us, not for recognition,” senior Eric Bunge said. “We’re going to play hard whether we get recognized or not.”
The hard work has paid off as the Leopards are ranked No. 14 in the Golf World/Nike Golf Men’s Coaches’ Poll and No. 8 in the Golfstat.com Division III rankings.
“Its cool to see how you’re ranked against the rest of the nation and the results of your hard work, but rankings don’t say everything about us,” Bunge said.
“All of us that are a part of the program are working hard every day to improve, we are never satisfied with a ranking,” Riehle said.
La Verne started the season strong with first and fourth place finishes in the first two SCIAC tournaments where they shot a collective score of 293 and 291. However, they lost their edge when they finished in 11th place shooting a collective 900 and 64 over par at the Coyote Classic on March 1 and on March 20 at the Jekyll Island Invitational the Leopards shot a collective 889, earning them a seventh place finish.
“Ever since Jekyll Island we went from being just a bunch of guys and individual to players, to an actual team,” Bunge said.
“We have good team chemistry,” senior Matt Bernal said. “We have the skills we just need to be mentally prepared.”
After the Jekyll Island Invitational they came back with a strong outing to win the SCIAC No. 3 tournament, shooting season low 281.
On Tuesday the Leopards played in the SCIAC No. 4 tournament at the Brookside Country Club in Pasadena where they shot 314 earning them a third place finish behind Redlands and Cal Lutheran, making there last conference tournament that much more important.
With the third place finish La Verne finds its self in second place in the SCIAC, a point and a half behind Redlands who lead the conference with 24 and a half points.
The Leopards will finish conference play at SCIAC No. 5 at noon on April 17 at the Tierra Rejada Golf Course in Simi Valley.
“We need to keep working hard and make good decisions,” Bernal said. “If we focus, we’re back in national championship contention.”
Elsie Ramos can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.