Texas-Pan American captures fourth PGA Minority Championship title

By
Bob Denney
The PGA of America

Series:

PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Never let it be said that the intangibles of depth and team chemistry are not a part of college golf.
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The University of Texas-Pan American men's team and Bethune-Cookman University's women's unit found such a formula is alive and well Sunday afternoon as each carved a path to NCAA Division I titles in the 24th PGA Minority Collegiate Golf Championship.

Texas-Pan American senior Armen Kirakossian collected four back-nine birdies for a 4-under-par 68 on PGA Golf Club's Wanamaker Course, while his teammates didn't miss a beat and took advantage of stumbles by defending champion Tennessee State University for a two-stroke (872 to 874) victory. It was Texas-Pan American's fourth overall title and first since 2007.

"We found the chemistry that we needed at the start of the year," said Broncs Coach Santiago De Larrea. "Armen was great, but so were guys like his brother, Kevin, and [freshman] Brandon Reyna. This is just my second season as coach, and it makes me feel as good now as when I was here in 2002 on the team and playing for a championship."

Bethune-Cookman's quintet, which is more like five sisters than an international mix of English, Venezuelan and American golf talent, posted a 54-hole school and tournament-record 885 total for its eighth overall title.

This Wildcat unit was led by junior Kim Wong of East Montpelier, Vt., whose closing 3-over-par 75 on the Ryder Course might have sealed medalist honors at 216, but senior teammate Emma Tayler of Devon, England, sprinkled in a bogey-free 70 to ensure that she would not be forgotten.

"The stage was set for the team to go on to a championship when I took over as head coach 10 days ago, and they performed tremendously," said Bethune-Cookman Coach and PGA Professional Loritz "Scooter" Clark, who succeeded PGA Professional Gary Freeman, who has reduced his coaching duties due to health reasons and was the architect of the Wildcats' golf powerhouse.

"This was a team that supported each other on and off the course," said Wong. "We came in and did what we had to do. It's amazing -- three straight days of the same total scoring (295)! I'm really going to miss my four teammates next year. We have four freshmen coming in next year and with big shoes to fill."

Teammate Tayler said that though she has had better 18-hole total scores, her final round Sunday was a showcase for her.

"This was my most complete, mistake-free round ever," said Tayler. "I'm very happy that I could do it today."

While Bethune Cookman breezed to its title, Texas-Pan American needed two big breaks to pass Tennessee State on the back nine at the Wanamaker Course.

Tennessee State senior Chris Seibel double-bogeyed the par-4 10th hole, and fell a stroke behind playing partner Armen Kirakossian, who took the cue to go on a birdie run from the 12th through 14th holes, and adding another at the 16th to hold together a gem of a round. Seibel finished with a 76.

About an hour earlier, Tennessee State's Richard Gill, who was his team's No. 4 player, suffered a quadruple bogey-8 on the par-4 15th hole on his way to a 76. Those two sudden twists allowed the Broncs the cushion needed to hold on for victory.

"I'm disappointed for our team, but more for Chris, who was playing in his final collegiate championship," said Tennessee State Coach and PGA Professional Chip Taylor. "We had a chance to win coming down the final four holes, and that is all you can ask for."

The Championship featured a field of 185 players representing 15 countries and 41 colleges and universities. It was the 13th consecutive year that PGA Golf Club served as host.

In the day's other team competition, Morehouse College of Atlanta, Ga., coached by PGA Professional Bill Lewis, brought home its first Division II title by a resounding 20 strokes, 906 to 926, over Virginia State University.

Senior Philip Allen, a graduate of The First Tee of Atlanta, highlighted his 69 on the Wanamaker Course by holing out for an eagle from the fairway on the 350-yard, par-4 15th hole. He capped his round with a birdie on the 18th green.

Following the trophy ceremony, Allen joined his teammates in a circle and sang the school's alma mater, "Dear Ole Morehouse."

"Though we were sitting up 24 strokes last night, we didn't feel that we had it [a title] in hand," said Allen. "We met last night to talk about our plan for today's round. We were serious about playing well."

"This says a lot about the future of our program," said Maroon Tigers Coach Lewis. "We have had 30 kids from The First Tee of Atlanta go on to golf scholarships. And, to have two kids make our team -- Philip Allen and Olajuwon Ajanaku -- well, I don't know any other First Tee chapters that can make such a claim."

The Men's Independent Division title went to University of Central Florida junior Amit Odaiyar, whose 68 on the Ryder Course and 208 total came after a duel with close friend Nyasha Mauchaza, a junior from Towson University, who closed with a 72.

"I was two down to Nyasha until the seventh hole when he hit his approach over the green, made double bogey and I was able to make an uphill four-footer for birdie," said Odaiyar, who finished third last year and was runner-up in 2008. "From that point on, I was feeling good. My putter got hot. This was the one [title] I had been waiting for. It was a long time coming."

The Women's Independent Division crown was captured by Cal State Monterey Bay senior Cicilia Chudivan, a native of Indonesia, who finished with a textbook 72 on the Ryder Course for a 54-hole total of 220.

"This tournament is a good experience, allowing you to meet new people, and it's such a great experience for international players and minority students," said Chudivan, who has plans of pursuing a Futures Tour berth after she spends the next two years earning a Masters degree in Business Administration.