Harvard a big draw for highly-ranked pair

Daniel De La Garza and Robert Deng

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Much of the focus this National Signing Day will be on the big-names ¬– teams like Alabama, Stanford and Texas, and players like Jim Liu and Beau Hossler, who will sign with the Cardinal and Longhorns, respectively.

But one of the more intriguing storylines will come from a pair of Ivy League commits who will not be signing National Letters of Intent on Wednesday.

Robert Deng and Daniel De La Garza will play for Harvard next fall, but will not take part in the signing-day festivities because Ivy League schools do not offer athletic scholarships. Though they're not putting ink to paper Wednesday, their commitments give the Crimson one of the more highly-touted classes this recruiting season.

Deng, an Irvine, Calif., native and a senior at St. Margaret’s Episcopal, is ranked No. 27 in the Golfweek/Sagarin Class of 2013 rankings. He won the Deutsche Bank Partners for Charity Junior Shoot Out in July, finished T-5 at the Under Armour/Hunter Mahan Championship in April and was a member of the 2012 HP Scholastic Junior All-America team.

“Golf-wise, a lot of the Ivy league schools have nice golf courses, but Harvard had a little more of a professional environment,” Deng said of his decision. “The Country Club of Brookline has a lot of history. It’s more than 200 years old and a lot of the members are Harvard alumni. For me, it was the perfect opportunity.”

De La Garza, who lives in Austin, Texas, and goes to St. Michael’s Catholic Academy, is ranked No. 22 by Golfweek. He’s also ranked No. 13 for the Class of 2013 in the Polo Golf Rankings and finished fourth at the Junior Players in September, one of his four finishes of T-8 or better in AJGA events in 2012.

“Harvard is a great school,” De La Garza said of his decision. “What I was looking for was I wanted to enter the best school I could and go somewhere where I felt like I could really work on my golf game. I like the coach [Kevin Rhoads], the director of golf [Fred Schernecker] and the community. I feel like I can make great relationships there.”

Deng and De La Garza have played a few junior tournaments together and even took their recruiting trip at the same time, visiting the Harvard campus in mid-September.

“We couldn’t play the course because of NCAA rules, but we watched the team play, walked the course with them and read the greens with them,” Deng said. “We really couldn’t do a whole lot, but we got to meet the players, coaches and everybody. That really helped narrow the decision.”

Said De La Garza: “I remember the night we got there we went to dinner. Then the next day we went to a class to see what it was like, went to a practice and then went to a basketball game. And then we also got to meet everyone on the team, and I got to spend time with Robert. It was a great experience.”

Harvard hasn’t won a tournament since April 2011 and has failed to finish better than fourth in the last four Ivy League Championships. But while Harvard’s class doesn’t have a Liu or a Hossler, getting two highly-ranked recruits in Deng and De La Garza could signal a Crimson rise to the top of the conference.

“I feel like the team right now they are really hard workers and I feel like everyone is going to improve,” De La Garza said. “And with me and Robert getting there, we both have very high goals and we want to work hard. We want to achieve important things while being there.”

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