All season long, the Arkansas-Pine Bluff men’s golf team was confident that this would be the year they would win the Southwestern Athletic Conference championship.
That confidence was rewarded Wednesday afternoon as sophomore Patrick Mwendopole won the individual title with a 7-under 209, and freshman Ismael Garcia claimed the low-medal prize for freshmen with a 1-under 221 as the Golden Lions rolled to the SWAC title with a team score of 2-under par, a whopping 27 strokes ahead of runners up Alabama State and Florida A&M. The championship is the first in program history.
Veteran coach Roger Totten, who three-peated as SWAC men’s coach of the year, knew this was the team that would get it done.
“It’s been a long time coming, and we’ve had great leadership all year long,” Totten said. “Our number one goal this year was to win the SWAC championship, and the players had faith in themselves, and I had faith in myself as a coach that we could get it done. I’m still trying to put it all into words.”
“We have five great golfers, so I knew that even if I didn’t do my best, the other guys would come through,” Mwendapole, the conference’s player of the year, said. “It was mostly just commitment and trusting the process. We’ve worked pretty hard the last couple of weeks, and it we knew we had the team to do it. It took a team effort to get it done, and it means a lot.”
“This is my first year in college, of course, so it feels amazing to win a championship,” added Garcia. “We were sure that we were the best team, so when the tournament started, we just played really well and showed that we were the best.”
The Golden Lions placed three golfers on the SWAC men’s first team: Mwendapole, Garcia, and sophomore Li Su. Freshman Angel Perez earned second-team all-conference honors as well.
With such a young team poised to play together for a few more years, the first men’s golf title in UAPB history may not be the last.
“We’re really proud of what we’ve accomplished,” Patrick Mwendapole said. “We’re just taking it step by step and living in the moment.”
“It always feels to win tournaments,” Ismael Garcia adds, “And even more so when we’re making history.”
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