PORT ST. LUCIE, Florida — Methodist University has always “done golf” really well. The school’s Division III men’s and women’s golf programs have combined on 37 National Championships, including six this decade.
Now it is time to plan another golf celebration, but this time the party will be thrown by the school’s renowned PGA Golf Management Program.
Methodist (+25, 601) won its first PGA Jones Cup on Wednesday by 11 shots over Penn State and the University of Central Oklahoma (612). Mississippi State and the event’s defending champion, Florida Gulf Coast, tied for fourth at 617. The 36-hole event was played on the Wanamaker Course at PGA Golf Club.
SCORES: See final team and individual scores from the PGA Jones Cup
“We haven’t always played well down here historically, yet we had a different feeling about this group,” said Bob Bruns, the Director of Methodist’s PGA Golf Management Program. “They’re fun to be around, but they’re also talented and experienced.”
While Methodist’s “starting five” in Port St. Lucie were all making their PGA Jones Cup debuts, they weren’t new to competitive golf. Three played previously for Methodist’s NCAA men’s golf program, which most recently captured the Division III title in 2018: Larkin Gross, Lucas Spahl and Anthony Panepento.
That experience coupled with a burning desire to get Methodist’s PGA Golf Management program off the schnide provided all the fuel required to hold off final-round charges from a slew of schools.
“At one point on the back 9, (defending champion) Florida Gulf Coast was right there, Penn State was within four shots and Central Oklahoma was in the mix all day,” said Bruns. “Earlier this morning, Maryland-Eastern Shore actually tied us. So our job as coaches was to keep our squad calm and get them settled in. To see them respond as they did made this even more gratifying.”
Gross’ two-day total of 142 rendered the event’s lone sub-par finish at 2-under.
If Gross led the Monarchs to the Cup, Penepento (152, T-12) and Spahl (153, T-16) polished it with top-20 finishes of their own. Steve Hopley (79, Tuesday) and Ryan Shuck (75, Wednesday) each contributed to the team effort.
“Larkin is unbelievable,” said Spahl, a senior. “I’ve been lucky enough to play on the golf team with him for four years and between tournaments and qualifying, he brings his A-game every single day. He’s (a two-time All-American) and it’s a treat to not only be on the PGA Jones Cup Team with him, but to share this victory with him.”
Methodist’s breakthrough win was not for the five players and two administrators in Florida this week, rather it was for its graduates and the 120 other PGM students back on campus in Fayetteville, North Carolina.
“We went to dinner last night with a bunch of our PGM guys that graduated before us that are working in Jupiter. Some had played on previous PGA Jones Cup teams and they let us know that this was important,” said Gross. “So, it feels really good to be able to accomplish this. We made a difference (on behalf of the program), which is really cool.”
The PGA Jones Cup is named for the first PGA Golf Management University Program Director at Mississippi State, Dr. S. Roland Jones, who held the position from 1985 until his passing in 1997. The event provides a platform where participants can display professionalism, integrity, character and camaraderie; all characteristics Dr. Jones instilled in PGA Golf Management students.
All participating universities in the PGA Jones Cup are schools accredited by the PGA of America to offer the PGA Golf Management University Program for aspiring PGA Professionals. There are currently over 1,700 students enrolled in the program nationwide.