Howard University moved one round closer to its first stroke-play victory as a men’s Division I program on Tuesday at TPC Sawgrass, shooting a second consecutive 19-over-par 307 – this time on the Dye’s Valley Course – to take a 1-shot lead into the final round of the 34th PGA WORKS Collegiate Championship.
Howard, in its 154th year of existence, is only 13 months into restarting its golf program (it competed years ago in Division II), and is playing in only its third stroke-play tournament of 2020-21. Everett Whiten Jr. shot 1-over 73, with Gregory Odom Jr. pitching in with a 75. Odom, at 2-over 146, leads all individuals inside the Men’s Division I Team Division. Howard’s coach, Sam Puryear, played on a winning team in this tournament while at Middle Tennessee, and Odom said he and his teammates would like to give him a win as a coach, too.
“I’m trying to stay mentally in the game,” said Odom, a junior from Memphis. “Leading as a team is always great. We didn’t have a super great season, but this is the finale. You’ve got to turn up.”
Texas A&M-Corpus Christi took a commanding lead in the Women’s Team Division, shooting 26-over 314 on the TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course to stretch its lead to 24 shots over Delaware State. Delaware State’s Baipor Khunsri (3-over 147) is the low individual through two rounds, but Texas A&M-Corpus Christi boasts four (Lucie Charbonnier, Kelli Ann Dugan, Reese Drezins and Kellsey Sample) among the top six.
Joni Stephens, in her third season as coach for the Islanders, had a message for her front-running team: "Soak in this experience. The fact that we're here at TPC Sawgrass and playing in the PGA WORKS Collegiate Championship is unbelievable. This is an opportunity unlike anything we've ever had before and will be unforgettable. This will be something they'll carry with them forever.”
Dugan didn’t shoot her team’s lowest round, but provided the highlight of the day for the Islanders with a birdie-birdie finish at the Stadium’s famous 17th and 18th holes. She hit her tee shot in tight to set up birdie on the island 17th, then holed her third shot from short of the green at the par-4 18th. There are a lot of pros who would pay handsomely for such a finish in The Players each year.
“I thought to myself, 'I just birdied 17 and 18!'” said Dugan, a junior from San Antonio who shot 79. “I'll never forget that. It’s something I'll be able to tell my grandchildren."
Prairie View A&M’s men’s team, coming off a victory in the Southwestern Athletic Conference – its third consecutive conference title – shot 16-over 304 on Dye’s Valley to close the gap on Howard, and will head into Wednesday trailing the Bison by one shot. Prairie View received a rounded team effort, getting 75s from Lorenzo Elbert Jr. (the SWAC’s individual champion) and Isaiah Wilson and a 76 from Jordan Stagg.
“The beautiful thing about winning the SWAC, it was very different than the first two (conference titles),” said Prairie View A&M Coach Kevin Jennings. “After the first round, we were 10 strokes back, and we made up nine strokes in the second round. Coming from behind gave the team a lot of momentum, and personally, gave us a lot of confidence within the group. I’m more than confident in my guys.”
Alabama State (301) and Florida A&M (307) will start the final round eight shots behind Howard. Florida A&M, which recently won its first Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference title, placing three players among the tournament’s top four, was the favorite to win the PWCC – the Rattlers were runners-up two years ago – but have yet to put a complete team round together.
In the Women’s Individual Division, UNC-Wilmington junior Phu Khine produced the round of the tournament thus far, making six birdies in a 5-under 67 on Dye’s Valley. Khine started fast with two birdies and closed her round with two more, and said the effort was the best she has had this spring.
“I’ve been waiting to see a round like this,” Khine said. “I wasn’t confident enough with my swing, and without confidence, my swing got messed up. So I’ve worked on a few key things and I’ve been committed. It’s more like a mental thing. I look at the pin sheet, and it’s like, I can hit that shot.”
Miles College (Alabama) took a slim 3-shot edge over Livingstone College (North Carolina) into the final round of the Men’s Division II Team Division. Savannah State will start the final round 10 shots back. Anthony Lumpkin (74) leads Miles and is tied for second individually, one shot behind leader Jared Southerland of Kentucky State.
Through two days of play, perhaps the best battle in any of the five divisions is taking place for the Men’s Individual title. Appalachian State junior Timothius Tarmardi pitched in for eagle from 15 yards at the penultimate par-5 17th hole at Dye’s Valley, and his 2-under 70 pulled him even with talented University of Alabama-Birmingham sophomore Khavish Varadan, who shot 74. The nearest competitor to those two stands eight shots back.
Tamardi shot 33 going out on the Stadium Course on Monday, but didn’t finish well in his opening 74, so he cannot wait to get back there for one more go on Wednesday.
“It was good experience for tomorrow,” he said. “I just need to seal the deal tomorrow. It’s not always about how you start, but how you end it. That’s all that matters.”
This is the first time the PWCC has been staged at TPC Sawgrass, home course to The Players Championship each spring. Asked how he’ll handle the nerves on Wednesday when he steps to the famous finish at the Stadium Course, which includes that perilous 140-yard shot to the island green at No. 17, Tamardi, who is from Indonesia, paused for a moment.
“Nothing crazy. One shot at a time,” he said, smiling. “We will talk about the 17th hole tomorrow.”