Stephen Curry, whose initial $6 million donation revived the Howard University golf program after 40 years being dormant, hosted a fundraiser for the team to continue its remarkable success at famous Pebble Beach Golf Links in California last week for a fundraiser. No doubt the investment in Howard golf has been a great one with a great return. Since the program started play in 2021, they have won two of the three Division I HBCU National Championships as determined by the PGA Works Collegiate Championship.
Last season was the breakout season, after holding the lead for the first two days of their initial campaign after the program’s restart, they would succumb to the Prairie View A&M Panthers who took home the 2021 title. Since then, it’s been all Bison. Last year behind the stellar play of Gregory Odom Jr., HU would capture their first-ever PGA Works Collegiate Championship. This year, it was no contest. From day one the Bison dominated the field, winning the championship by 57 strokes. This year Everett Whiten Jr. would be the medalist, turning in the lowest score, followed by Odom.
Hu head coach Sam Puryear is ecstatic about the opportunity the young men are receiving as six Howard University golfers are taking part in the tournament and playing on a world class course that is set to host the Women’s U.S. Open.
“It’s neat to have an opportunity right now to come out and have a fundraiser at Pebble Beach,” said Puryear. “If you’re matching Pebble Beach with Howard at this point it’s just a beautiful thing. We’re trying to create some funding that will sustain the program long term and allow us to operate and be competitive. This fundraiser is essential in our development right now.”
Stephen Curry shows off his skill
Curry upstaged everyone on last Sunday though. Playing on the famous course, he hit a perfect drive to within 97-yards of the green. He pulled out a wedge, hit it high past the cup and spun it back in for an eagle that electrified the crowd following him. Curry is better known for his long-distance shots as the NBA’s most prolific three-point shooter.
Puryear sees Stephen Curry as one of the ingredients for his team’s success…a key ingredient. Following the PGA Works Championship, he stated that four things contributed to their success: Support from the university and athletics department, great recruiting of athletes, solid coaching and execution by the players strategies and the funding Curry injected into the program. Puryear doesn’t waver from that recipe.
Howard University coach sticks to a formula for success
“At the end of the day, even the order of those four changes. No.1, you have to have the funding to support the other elements. No.2, we’ve been able to recruit the right students that are doing so well in school that have also been able to excel on the golf course,” Puryear said. “That makes it easier to maintain a really, really good competitive schedule because they can handle the academic workload. From there, when you put all that in place with the proper funding, with the proper support and definitely with the proper young folks, you have something that people have never seen before.”
Howard University golfers have been getting professional experiences over the last two years. We followed step-for-step in 2021 when Odom was given a sponsor’s exemption to play in the Wells Fargo Championship on the PGA Tour. With the team’s rankings, as we await the final APGA Tour annual rankings, Bison golfers are expected to earn their APGA Tour card which is growing in popularity and purses. Last year, for the first time, the APGA Tour reached over $2 million dollars in purses and prizes. For winning last year’s APGA Tour Player of the Year, former B-CU golfer Willie Mack II also won a free year lease of a Lexus.
The experience is top notch and is great exposure for the players.
“It’s pretty phenomenal for our guys to get this opportunity,” Puryear said. “The golf course is in pristine condition, the grandstands and scoreboards are up (in preparation for next week’s women’s U.S. Open) and one thing I really appreciate is that the student-athletes are very appreciative of everything that has taken place and everything that is taking place.”
The recent developments on the PGA and LIV Tours has caused even more confusion as to how the two leagues will either co-exist or merge. Puryear states that while those are lofty goals, it’s not lost on his team to enjoy the moment they are in.
“The one thing we’ve talked a lot about is opportunity and access,” Puryear said. “I don’t mean access and opportunity from the perspective of who can become a professional golfer. I mean opportunity and access from the perspective of who can become a professional person. If you give people the opportunity and access and the tools, they are going to be successful in life.”
When talking about Stephen Curry and his dedication to the Bison, the core meaning of his mission comes to focus.
“He loves the student-athletes. He’ll tell you that having the opportunity to support the young folks and to Facetime them, workout with them, play golf with them…when he’s able to do that type of stuff it all works out,” Puryear concluded. “We’re pretty thankful that we get the opportunity to do it.”