Sept. 13, 2006
Los Angeles, CA (Sept. 13) -- Defending champions sure has a nice feel to it, for any collegiate athletic program. For the Loyola Marymount University men's golf program the moniker of champion provided the world of collegiate golf a true Cinderella story in 2005-06 and has the LMU program entering uncharted territory for the upcoming 2006-07 season.
The 2005-06 season saw the Lions earn their first West Coast Conference championship and an automatic bid to the NCAA West Regional. They did not stop there. At the regional, the Lions set a program record with a three-round score of 847, 17-under par to place in a tie for sixth and qualify for the programs first ever appearance to the NCAA Men's Golf National Championship.
The success place the Lions as one of the top-10 collegiate golf stories of the season according to GolfWeek and made them the Cinderella story of 2006.
That was last season and the Lions enter the 2006-07 campaign with the pieces in place to defend their WCC title.
"Our season a year ago was something I really can't describe," said Head Coach Alex Galvan, who enters his fifth season at the helm of the Lions. "It was such a memorable season. I told the guys from day one last year that we could achieve great things. And they did. Coming into this season we are in the position to do more great things."
The Lions return four of the five golfers who played in the Lions tournament run last year, led by LMU's first ever golfer to earn All-America honors, sophomore Brian Locke (Los Angeles, CA/St, Berbard HS).
The WCC Golfer of the Year and WCC Freshman of the Year won the WCC individual title with a six-under 210, thanks in large part to a 64 in the final round. He also shot a 10-udner 206 at the West Regional to place in a tie for fifth among more than 150 of the nation's top competition.
Locke has been named as one of the top-50 golfers in the nation by Golf World Magazine entering just his second season with the Lions. He finished the season with a 72.1 average, leading the team with 15 rounds under par.
"Brian has an ability to get into a zone where he just strings multiple birdies together," said Galvan of Locke, who had five top-five finishes in 2005-06, including two rounds of 64 to equal the LMU low round record. "When he gets into that zone, he is one of the best young golfers I have seen."
Locke's success as a freshman continues a long line of top recruits brought in by Galvan. He was the third freshman of the year in four seasons under Galvan, including returning junior Jason D'Amore (Manhattan Beach, CA/Mira Costa HS).
The third-year golfer earned the honor in 2004-05 as he led the team in 10 of 11 tournaments. In 2005-06, D'Amore was one of the most consistent golfers for the Lions, shooting within five strokes of par in eight of 13 tournaments. D'Amore finished his sophomore season as a first-team All-WCC selection, placing in a tie for fourth at the WCC Championship. He is the first player in LMU history to earn a pair of first-team all-conference honors.
Also returning for the Lions was one of the biggest surprises in the WCC last year, junior Josh Escobedo (Tucson, AZ/Salpointe Catholic HS). The third-year walk-on for the Lions had a breakout campaign. He placed in a tie for fourth at the WCC Championships, thanks in large part to his second-round 69. He earned first-team All-WCC honors and posted a personal best three-round 218 at the West Regional.
Rounding out the Lions returners from last season's tournament run is sophomore Louie Bergna (Riverside, CA/Riverside Poly HS). As a true freshman, Bergna gained valuable experience posting rounds of 74 and 75 that counted in helping the Lions advance in the WCC Championship and NCAA West Regional.
The only loss from the Lions top five is Chaz Inouye. The four-year leader of the Lions graduated in 2006 and entered LMU the same year Galvan took over the program. Inouye was the Lions' first WCC Freshman of the Year and he saved his best for last, posting three-under 213 in the West Regional to help LMU advance. He finished his career with a 75.9 stroke average.
Sophomore Joe Stassi (Manhattan Beach, CA/Mira Costa HS) and senior Jason Wilk (Agoura Hills, CA/Westlake HS) also return from the Lions roster a year ago. Stassi played six rounds as a true freshman while Wilk played in just three as he studied abroad in China during the spring semester in 2006.
The Lions roster is rounded out this season by the lone incoming freshman, Brandin Cohen (Manhattan Beach, CA/Mira Costa HS). He was named Daily Breeze Co-Golfer of the Year after winning the Bay League individual championship this spring for Mira Costa High School. Cohen led Mira Costa High school to a 19-2 record and the CIF Western Divisional Championship.
With a talented and experienced roster in place for the Lions, they will not only have to deal with the uncharted territory of being defending champs, but an upgraded schedule that comes with an appearance in the NCAA Championships as one of the nation's top-30 teams.
"Our schedule in 2006-07 is probably one of the most competitive in this program's history," said Galvan. "We will have the opportunity to play some of the best in the country this season in both the fall and in the spring. The hope is that you only get better when you play against the best."
New to the Lions' schedule this season is the Del Walker Intercollegiate hosted by Long Beach State (Sept. 14-15), the Husky Invitational hosted by Washington (Sept. 25-26), Arizona Invitational hosted by Arizona (Jan. 29-30), UCLA's True Blue Individual Collegiate (Feb. 11-13), the Anteater Invitational (Feb. 27-28), South Western Intercollegiate hosted by USC (March 5-6), and the USF/Wisconsin Triumph (March 28-30).
The Lions schedule also includes return trips to the Santa Clara Fall Invitational (Oct. 22-24), the Bull Culum Invitational hosted by Cal State Northridge (Oct. 30-31), the Hawaii Fall Intercollegiate (Nov. 6-8), and the Cuesta Title Men's Intercollegiate hosted by Cal Poly (March 29-30).
All told, the Lions will appear eight tournaments hosted by teams that advanced to an NCAA regional last year.
With a schedule worthy of a defending champion, a roster comprise of players experienced in winning titles, the Lions have a chance to successfully travel the uncharted territory they enter in 2006.