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Perfection has become a common trait for the University of La Verne golf team for the past two years. The team completed another historic season on Tuesday by going undefeated in the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference for the second time earning them back-to-back championships.
The Leopards finished with their best score in school history by shooting 25 under par, for a final combined score of 559 in the 36-hole SCIAC championship held at Los Serranos Country Club in Chino Hills.
The title win also secures ULV a berth in the upcoming NCAA Championships to be played May 16 in Braselton, Ga.
“This was something special,” junior Rizal Amin said. “We made history. To play 36 holes and shoot 25 under is amazing. We just surprised each other on how well we played.”
“It’s nice to know that no one has ever done that before,” senior Jordan Talah said. “We have gone undefeated two years in a row and it’s quite an accomplishment I think.”
ULV was led by the play of sophomore Andrew Kramer, who finished the day with the best individual score on the team of 138 on 36 holes. Four other Leopards placed in the top 10, which included Talah with a final score of 141 and a finish in fourth place.
Fellow senior Chris Davis’ score of 142 was followed Talah in fifth while Amin took sixth with a final tally of 143. Freshman Kevin Smith came into a tie in seventh place with his final score of 168.
“The weather was pretty hot (on Monday) but Coach Rex (Huigens) told us to keep our focus and keep on doing what we have been all year long,” Kramer said.
All the players on the team have been dedicating their last final tournaments to Huigens, the team’s coach since the inception of the team.
The legendary coach will be leaving following the conclusion of the upcoming nationals because of his pending retirement.
Most of them believe he has been instrumental in establishing the ULV golf program and making it what it is today.
“It’s going to be a sad loss for ULV,” Amin said. “Rex has put together a great program that everyone knows about. Every time we play, it’s for Rex. He’s just an amazing guy and coach.”
The team is looking forward to bringing home a national title for Huigens, which will be his final match as coach.
Compared to the rest of the nation, the Leopards have the depth and skill despite their No. 6 ranking in Division III.
First team all-conference performers this year include Talah, Amin, Kramer and Davis with Smith gaining a spot on the second team in addition to SCIAC freshman of the year honors.
Standing out from the rest this year has been Amin, the team’s anchor and most consistent player.
Amin has already earned the SCIAC co-player of the year award and also shared the Jess Clark Sportsmanship award.
He is also one of the front runners for the Jack Nicklaus award, which is presented to the best player in NCAA Divisions I, II and III, and NAIA at the conclusion of the national championships.
“He’s obviously a great player and always has been,” Talah said.
“He has always been very solid and you always count on a low score from him.”
“I’ll be shocked if I get it,” Amin said. “To get an award from a legend like Nicklaus, that’s a lot. It would be real special.”
Individual accolades are not going to hinder the Leopards from their ultimate goal which is a national title.
Following a mediocre start in first round last season at nationals, ULV still managed to bounce back and finish the national tournament in second place.
This year, the team anticipates their momentum and confidence should lead them to the top of the final standings.
“It’s definitely our goal and we can compete with anyone as we proved last year,” Kramer said. “There’s no reason why we can’t win it all.”
“We were the underdogs last year but this season we just got to get the job done and I think we can do it,” Amin said.
“The whole season gears to nationals. I think we are the best team in the nation right now despite what the polls say,” Talah said. “We will win it all.”
Galo Pesantes can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.