When Sam Puryear took over as head coach of the Howard University golf team three years ago after it was blessed with a $6 million gift from NBA All-Star Stephen Curry. Puryear said the opportunity to build something special at Howard was right there for the taking. Little did we know that the Bison would kick down the door and ascend to the throne of HBCU golf.
The Bison literally obliterated the usual HBCU suspects en route to taking their second consecutive PGA Woks Collegiate Championship, which has for decades has been crowned the HBCU national championship. They didn’t just win the 2023 championship, they literally lapped the field. Shoal Creek Golf Course (Par 72) and Bent Brook Golf Course(Par 71) combined to host the 2023 PGA Works Collegiate Championship.
Howard University won by 57 strokes over second-place North Carolina A&T and 67 strokes over third place Florida A&M…yeah, they’re that good. Not only were they competing against the other teams in the field, the competition among the team members is pretty fierce in itself.
“It’s like Play-Doh. Mold it and make it and find the right pieces. A little experiment here, a little experiment there, but I learned a lesson a long time ago, “ Puryear said. “You may think you’re a good coach, but you’re only as good as your players. The better players I go find, the better coach I become. As far as I’m concerned, I’ve been blessed enough to go find really good players and help make them better. And, in turn they make our program look super.”
For the last two years, Gregory Odom Jr. has walked away with medalist honors for the lowest individual score. This year, Everett Whiten Jr., also on the Howard team, led all golfers with a sizzling 14-under par (69,68,64). Whiten shot 3-under-par in the opening round at Shoal Creek, 3-under-par in the second round at Bent Brook, and a final round 8-under-par back at Shoal Creek. Odom would finish at 5-under-par and Howard teammate Marcus Smith finished at 4-under-par and constitute the only other players to score under par for the tournament.
Whitten, completing his senior season, went out with a bang. “I played good. Game felt good coming in,” Whiten said. “Unfortunately, last week at conference we couldn’t get the job done. When we got here, I told myself that my game feels good, just trust yourself and go out there and see what happens.”
Forced to play in the Northeastern Conference (NEC) after the exodus of several golf-playing schools from the MEAC, the Bison managed a second-place finish in the NEC tournament and with it goes an automatic qualification to the NCAA tournament. While Howard wishes it had the opportunity to compete in the NCAA tournament, nothing can detract from the complete tournament the Bison put on as a team.
While the assist from Stephen Curry was huge, Puryear credits a total support effort at Howard University for the success of the program.
“People support the program and the administration likes and supports the program and for that I am grateful. You can’t do it without the support from the top. We have a unique village and that village is working really hard for us to become the best,” Puryear said.
While it remains to be seen if Stephen Curry can lead his Warriors to back-to-back titles, his Howard University golf program has already achieved that feat.