Howard University and Greg Odom Jr. Sweep the Division I Men's Titles at the PGA WORKS Collegiate Championship
By George Willis
022 PWCC Men's Division I Champions, Howard University pose for a photo with their trophies during the Awards Ceremony for the 2022 PGA Works Collegiate Championship at The Union League Liberty HillPGA of America
Click here for 2022 PGA WORKS Collegiate Championship final results.
A closer than expected finish turned into a coronation for Howard University’s golf program at Union League Liberty Hill on Wednesday. The Bison are a force to be reckoned with in golf.
With its top two players – seniors Greg Odom Jr. and Everett Whiten Jr. – dominating the field and a supporting cast that played well under pressure, Howard captured the prestigious PGA WORKS Collegiate Championship by one stroke over Chicago State University.
Odom successfully defended his medalist title, shooting a 4-under 68 to finish 6 under for the tournament. He was four shots better than Whiten, who also fired a 68 after recording birdies on seven of his first 10 holes in Wednesday’s cloud-covered final round of the 54-hole Championship.
In just its second year of existence, Howard golf closed its season with the MEAC Championship and the PWCC title. Birdies by freshman Justin Green and sophomore Joshua Siplin on the 18th hole helped provide the slim margin of victory.
“The older guys did their jobs,” Howard coach Sam Puryear said of Odom and Whiten. “But the younger guys – Justin and Josh – what they did was invaluable. It was a total team effort. All the dreams came true. We said we wanted to win an HBCU national championship one day, and we got it.”
Sponsored by PGA WORKS, Comcast, the Union League of Philadelphia and Bank of America, the 35th PWCC featured 30 teams representing Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic-serving institutions and other minority-serving institutions from across the nation.
CSU Dominguez Hills won the Men’s Division II championship by five strokes over defending champion Miles College, while Texas A&M-Corpus Christi retained the Women's title with a 14-stroke margin over Delaware State. Lucie Charbonnier of Corpus Christi was the medalist in the Women’s Division, shooting a 6-over 76 at The Union League Golf Club at Torresdale to complete the tournament at 13 over par. She was one stroke better than Anna Ferreyra-Heit of Delaware State.
Sparky Ariyachatvakin of Delaware (3 under) won the Men’s Individual Division for men not playing on a team, while Haley Vargas of Kansas State had the low total for women at 1 over.
When Green, Howard’s first player to reach the 18th, made a 35-foot putt for birdie, few knew how important it would be. Siplin also added a birdie on the final hole while everyone else was watching Odom and Whiten duel for the individual title.
Whiten, who shared the first-round lead with Odom and trailed him by four strokes after 36 holes, began Wednesday’s final round with four consecutive birdies before a bogey at the fifth. Odom, playing in the group behind Whiten, managed to keep his distance with birdies at the fourth and fifth.
Behind their play, Howard, who trailed Arkansas-Pine Bluff by three strokes heading into the final 18 holes, took the team lead on the front nine and began to separate themselves from the field.
Using its four lowest scores, Howard had a 10-shot lead over Florida A&M with Odom, Howard’s final player, heading to the 10th tee.
But Odom found trouble at the par-4 11th where he hit the ball into the water. A double-bogey dropped him to 4 under with Whiten at 2 under. But Odom recorded birdies at the 13th and 14th to stretch a lead that became more comfortable when Whiten made bogey on two of his last four holes.
“I was just trying to keep hitting golf shots,” said Odom. "Coming into today three shots back, I knew my guys would stay strong. Today we overcame obstacles. This is huge for the Howard golf team."
Charbonnier said she battled her nerves over the closing holes to finish off her championship at Torresdale.
"I couldn't breathe, I was so tight," she said, but a bogey at the 18th was good enough to win by one shot. “I’ve been wanting to win the entire season. I am happy to finally make it, especially here at this tournament."
Corpus Christi defended its Women’s Division title, but it’s the first for Pat Stephens, who became the head coach in January.
”To win a PGA event with a group of young ladies like this is very exciting,” Stephens said.
There were shining stars with bright futures throughout the tournament like freshman Kendall Jackson, who is part of the inaugural season of Howard’s women’s program, which finished fifth.
“It’s incredible and special,” said Jackson, who finished eighth individually. "Not only are you playing at a high level with other collegiate golfers, but playing with other high-level black collegiate golfers. That's something as a black female you seldom get to do. So I'm honored and blessed."
And there are players like Kelli Dugan of Corpus Christi, who played her final round of collegiate golf on Wednesday and finished ninth. The San Antonio native, who owned the lead after shooting a 73 in the first round at Torresdale on Monday, could utilize another year of eligibility due to COVID-19, but has elected to give up golf to focus on her studies to become a mechanical engineer.
Odom, meanwhile, will fulfill his sponsor's exemption for the Wells Fargo Championship at TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm, but valued his time at the PWCC. It wasn't just about the golf either, noting the Beyond the Green workshop held before the tournament introduced the players to various aspects of the golf industry.
“It’s a great event because not only do you get to play competitive golf, you get to learn the business world from the golf side,” Odom said. “If you’re in love with golf, you can learn how to stay in it until the end of time. This tournament is more than just golf.”