Some people are only eligible to vote. Many are under the legal drinking age, while others are full-grown adults pursuing graduate degrees. East Lansing, Michigan; Chesapeake, Virginia; York, Pennsylvania; Ellicott City, Maryland; Pearland, Texas; West Palm Beach, Florida; Memphis — their hometowns and backgrounds are a microcosm of America and beyond. Four are from Chicago, which has a metro population of eight million people, and one is from Suwanee, Georgia, which has a population of only 16,000 people.
Another is from the tiny Ugandan town of Lugazi, whose sports claim to fame is that its Little League baseball team qualified for the Little League World Series in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, in 2012.They were drawn to Howard University for three reasons: their love of golf, seven-time NBA All-Star Stephen Curry’s money, and finally, to answer a question that the sports world has been asking since 2019 when it was announced that Curry had donated $6 million over six years to Howard to establish a golf program at a university that hadn’t competed in the sport in nearly 50 years.
Can a seed planted and nurtured at a historically black university grow into a full-fledged, competitive NCAA Division 1 program in an athletic endeavor that many people don’t even consider a sport, even after Tiger Woods?The team has equipment, uniforms, camaraderie, commitment, and talent, as well as two golf teams, one with eight women and one with seven men. So far, they have won two games and have a highly respectable first-year record in a sports season marred by the coronavirus pandemic.
In addition, during its Bison at the Beach Golf Classic in July at Pebble Beach, California’s number one public golf course, the university raised an additional $3 million to support the programme.
Curry made the commitment after then-Howard student Otis Ferguson IV approached him about starting a golf program at Howard while Curry was screening a film he had made at Howard.
The university’s first step in launching the program was to find an experienced leader who could build a program. Sam Puryear was hired.Puryear became the first African-American head coach in a power five conference when he took over at Michigan State. He won one national championship, one Big Ten championship, and two coaches of the year awards during his tenure.Prior to Michigan State, Puryear worked as an assistant coach at Stanford University, where he was part of an intense program that drew international attention during Tiger Woods’ tenure.Puryear stated that he anticipates bringing the winning pedigree to Howard.
“My standards are exactly the same,” Puryear stated. “We want to find the best student athletes we can with the resources we have.” Dealing with a champion like Curry could assist us in building something and pursuing the best players.”Puryear is no stranger to the world of HBCU golf. He earned his bachelor’s degree in 1992 from Tennessee State University, where he was captain of the golf team. Catana Starks, the first woman to coach a men’s golf program at the highest collegiate level, led the team.”We want to build something no one has ever seen,” Puryear explained.
“HBCU golf is becoming stronger and more competitive. I don’t feel pushed to win (by Curry or Howard). All of the stress I’m under is my own fault.”Puryear believes Howard’s men’s and women’s golf teams will have the same success as previous teams he has coached, which is why he reached out to Everett Whiten Jr.Everett Whiten Jr., a junior majoring in marketing, received a call from Puryear just two days after learning that Hampton University’s golf programme had been discontinued due to budget cuts caused by COVID-19.
“We’d only been home for a few days due to the pandemic when my coach called and said the programme had been cut,” said Whiten of Chesapeake, Virginia.
Whiten participated in a variety of sports until he was 12 years old. His father played golf and encouraged him to do so as well, but basketball was his true love. Whitten began playing golf in middle school and hasn’t looked back since.Whiten has finished in the top 10 at the Georgetown Invitational, in the top 15 at the Howard Invitational, and has won the Towson Invitational since joining the university’s golf team.Puryear is responsible for much of his success, according to him.” Coach Sam is unique,” he said. “I had a coach at Hampton who went through the motions. Coach treats us as if we are one of his children.
We’re really fostering a positive culture for the next generation, and I’m excited to be a part of it.”During a fundraising event for the program, Whiten had the opportunity to play golf with Stephen Curry.”
He’s just a regular guy,” he said. “He approached me and made a simple conversion as if he were a Howard student himself.” It’s encouraging to see that he’s invested in the program in more ways than one.”Puryear explained that because he didn’t have much time to recruit after taking over the program, he focused on student athletes who were in the transfer portal during the recruiting process.Raquel Simpson, a sophomore political science major from Chicago, said she was committed to Hampton University but had to look elsewhere after the golf programme was cancelled due to the pandemic.
“Coach contacted my parents after hearing about what happened at Hampton,” Simpson explained.This fall, Simpson did not qualify for any tournaments.”I didn’t perform as well as I had hoped,” she admitted.”The workouts with our trainer and the regiment that coach has us on have me feeling prepared for the spring season.”Simpson works out with an athletic trainer three days a week to get back on track.
“We work on lower body on Tuesdays, upper body on Wednesdays, and full body on Thursdays,” she explained. “On other days, we’re supposed to go to Woodmont Country Club, Argyle Country Club, or Woodmore Country Club to practice golf,” Puryear stated that Curry’s financial support for the program drew him to the position of head coach. Puryear stated that he has since discovered Curry to be personally invested in the program.
“The most important thing is Curry’s support,” he said. “We’ve talked several times. He is a big fan of the kids and really wants them to succeed.”Golf is the main reason Justin Green, a first-year business management major, came to Howard.
The university wasn’t on his radar until he saw Curry’s donation, he said.Green explained, “My dad’s friend went to school with coach Puryear, and that’s how we met.” “I eventually paid him a visit and continued to send him my tournament results.”Green has qualified for and competed in four of the season’s five tournaments. His early success can be attributed to hard work, the coach, and his teammates.” I take advantage of Curry’s donations,” he explained. “We are extremely fortunate because the coach has a wealth of experience.” He understands how to mold great golfers.”
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