Voice Magazine / Stories / 2018 Fall / International Drive

International Drive

With a tight-knit group of student-athletes from the United States and overseas, the University of La Verne men's golf team is excelling on the links and in the classroom.

The University of La Verne men’s golf team enjoyed one of its best seasons last year, and it was a global effort.

The Leopards were one of 42 teams to qualify for the NCAA Division III Men’s Golf National Championships, but one thing distinguished the 10-man team from the rest of the pack: the diversity on the squad.

The Leopards boasted four athletes from outside the United States. They are Justin Eller-Hughes of Germany, Pitiluk Phanomchai of Thailand, Charlie Green of England, and Henrik Skogseth of Norway. The diversity of nationalities led to a strong camaraderie on the team.

“These past two seasons have been the tightest-knit teams and best units I’ve ever had,” Head Coach Eric Riehle said. “It is one group moving forward, and I really do think the mix helps that.”

Riehle recruits heavily internationally, but that doesn’t mean he passes up local talent. Along with golfers coming from overseas, the Leopards have several student-athletes from talent-rich Southern California, including 2018 Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SCIAC) Athlete of the Year Hisham Hussein (San Dimas), All-American Conner Davis (Upland), and recent graduate Aaron DiGiamarino (La Verne). All helped their international teammates adapt to college life in California.

“It really helps that we have the local guys on the team to get us adjusted,” Skogseth said. “Knowing we have a team that we can always rely on means a lot.”

The benefits of having players from different backgrounds also extends to the classroom.

“They’ve been able to help each other in the educational sphere,” Riehle said. “Some of the English language learners are much more advanced in the mathematics and business realms. So, I have some local California guys who are helping with the English, and on the other side get tutoring for math.”

“My English has definitely improved because I get to listen to my teammates and coaches and talk to them,” Pitiluk Phanomchai said. “I’m learning a little more every day.” At the conference level, Phanomchai won SCIAC Newcomer of the Year. He also picked up West Region Freshman of the Year honors. Hussein was named to the All-West team, and Davis placed seventh individually at the NCAA Tournament to pick up his first All-American award. Davis also earned Academic All-American recognition.

As a team, the Leopards qualified for the national tournament for the second time in four years and ranked as high as 14th nationally.

“I think that this is the most interesting group of guys that I’ve ever met and that I’ve ever had the privilege to be around. I don’t think you’ll find this team dynamic at any other school,” Davis said.

The Leopards continue to expand their recruiting territory. Two of the six new golfers joining the squad this season are international students, one from Canada and the other from Thailand. With the Leopard squad losing just one golfer to graduation, the team is back on its way up the national rankings and to compete for a SCIAC title.