Charlotte, NC – Two-time men's golf national champion Leon D'Souza of South Mountain (AZ) has been named the 2018-19 David Rowlands Male Student-Athlete of the Year for excellence both on the course and in the classroom.
D'Souza, a 2019 graduate from South Mountain with an associate's degree in business became the first individual back-to-back NJCAA DII Men's Golf Champion since 1993 and led the Cougars' charge to the team national title in 2019.
"I am honored to receive this prestigious award in my final year as a junior college player," D'Souza stated. "This award means a great deal to me as it is a culmination of all the hard work that has been put in by myself, coach Puetz, and the rest of the guys on the SMCC men's golf team. To come in as an international student and to have been given the opportunity to win such an award has been great, but to win the award is truly unbelievable. It has been three semesters of college golf that I will always remember and cherish."
D'Souza broke onto the NJCAA Men's Golf scene in 2018 where, as a freshman, he captured the individual national title at the Glenlakes Golf Club in Foley, AL. D'Souza's impressive 8-under, 280 helped the Cougars finish fourth overall as a team at the tournament. After returning for his sophomore campaign, D'Souza's relentless effort on the course culminated in a second consecutive national championship with a 4-under, 284, a mark that powered the Cougars to the team national championship by 19 strokes at the Swan Lake Golf Resort in Plymouth, IN.
For his efforts on the course, D'Souza was named a two-time NJCAA DII Men's Golf All-American, the two-time ACCAC Player of the Year, and the 2019 NJCAA Region I Player of the Year. D'Souza captured four individual ACCAC titles throughout his time at South Mountain.
The 2019 South Mountain Male Student-Athlete of the Year in 2019, D'Souza's success in the classroom led to a 3.66 cumulative GPA and needed just three semesters to graduate. D'Souza earned NJCAA All-Academic honors and was a member of the 2017-18 NJCAA Men's Golf Academic Team of the Year.
South Mountain head coach Aaron Puetz commended D'Souza for his outstanding contributions to not only the golf program, but the South Mountain campus. "Leon came to South Mountain the Spring of 2018 and made an immediate impact on the program. His intense focus in and out of the classroom provided leadership that was necessary to achieve our team goals of maintaining an All-Academic GPA and a national championship. Leon's maturity and first-class work ethic are the reasons why he was successful and our team fully embraced those skills making for a very special year at SMCC in and out of the classroom. We are excited to see what the future holds for Leon as he continues his academic and athletic career at the University of Southern California."
D'Souza expanded on his career at South Mountain and his tenure as a Cougar. "My experience at South Mountain has been better than I could have ever asked for. I count myself as extremely fortunate to have joined a team that consisted of an incredible group of guys - all of whom have made my experience in Arizona that much better. It has also been a pleasure to play under the coaching/guidance of Coach Andy Walker and Coach Aaron Puetz. They are both extremely passionate and knowledgeable individuals that have a great desire to succeed - something that seeped into our team and gave us the foundations necessary to have the season that we did. My experience off the golf course has also been fantastic.
"The golfing facilities are without a doubt the best that Arizona junior college golf has to offer, from what I've seen. The Legacy Golf Resort has been great at accommodating our team, and is something that I will always appreciate. As SMCC is in such a convenient location, it is extremely easy to travel to from school. And as we were situated in Phoenix, there was never a shortage of things to do."
D'Souza noted the opportunities presented to him as an NJCAA student-athlete. "I was not certain of the outcome of me attending junior college; however, looking back it was definitely the correct decision. The NJCAA has provided me with a portal into U.S. college golf, U.S. college academics, and golf life in Arizona. The NJCAA has also ultimately provided me with the stepping stone to continue my college golf and academics at the University of Southern California in the fall of 2019. I can't thank the organization enough for their support and passion in the college golf scene."
D'Souza becomes the first South Mountain student-athlete and the first-ever NJCAA Men's Golf student-athlete to earn the David Rowlands Male Student-Athlete of the Year award.
About the NJCAA David Rowlands Award
David Rowlands was an active member of the NJCAA from 1972-1988. He was a regional director during that time and from 1975-1988 was the chair of the NJCAA baseball committee. Rowlands, a baseball coach at Truman College (Chicago, IL), served on the NJCAA gymnastics, golf, executive and eligibility committees. Rowlands was the perfect model of hard work, discipline, ethics and excellence in community college athletics. This award is given annually to the NJCAA Student-Athlete that best exhibits these traits.