By Craig Dolch
Special to PGA of America
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. – The best teams don’t always win in golf. They did Sunday at the 33rd PGA WORKS Collegiate Championship at PGA Golf Club.
The women at Bethune-Cookman University rolled to their eighth consecutive Division I title, by 52 shots, on the Ryder Course, while the men’s teams at Bethune-Cookman, California State-Dominguez Hills and Houston-Victoria easily defended their titles for the fourth straight time in Division I, Division II and NAIA, respectively.
The men’s team at Bethune-Cookman University won its fourth consecutive title, shooting a 3-under to move 21 shots ahead of Florida A&M on the Wanamaker Course when play was stopped due to lightning. Play was called about an hour later, with the scores reverting to 36 holes, when Bethune-Cookman led FAMU by four shots. Mens Division I was the only score to be shortened by the rain.
The favorites in the four major divisions lived up to their billing, especially the Bethune-Cookman women. They shot 9-over as a team on a difficult course and have won this event 11 times.
“They played phenomenal,” coach Danny Forshay said. “The fun part is seeing where they started nine months ago to where they are now.
“We’re not really playing against other people; we’re playing against ourselves, to be the best we can be. This is the icing on the cake.”
The Wildcats were led by Yudika Rodriguez, who was medalist at 8-under 208, after a 72. She won by six shots over teammate Caitlyn Evans-Brand (67-210) for her fifth victory of her senior year.
“This means a lot to me,” said an emotional Rodriguez. “I’ve been trying to win this tournament since I was a freshman. My plan is to probably turn pro and see if I can make a living doing this.”
Forshay saw the Bethune-Cookman men’s team struggle to a first-round tie, but they took a four-shot lead Saturday and quickly settled the issue Sunday morning when they completed the second round, before the storm rolled in.
“We had a rough first day Friday, but we didn’t freak out,” Forshay said of his men’s tean. “We knew we just had a bad day. We just settled in and do what we do.”
“This week was very special,” said California State-Dominguez Hills head coach Ron Eastman, who saw his Toros (309-908) win Division II by 32 shots over Lincoln (Mo) University (330-940).
“It had a different feeling as far as what the PGA of America is doing as far as diversity and inclusion. We’re the most diverse team in our conference. It’s special for us to be here.”
Houston-Victoria (309-912) won its fourth consecutive NAIA title, by 40 shots over Governor State (323-952).
In Division II, William Yang of California State-Dominguez Hills took medalist honors with a 77 to finish at 10-over 226. Yang beat teammate Andrew Banuelos (80-228) to end his college career in style.
“I poured the last four years into every single shot and every putt today,” Yang said. “This school and team have helped make me who I am.”
In the Men’s Independent Division, Zahidali Nathu of British Columbia (71-216) overcame losing a two-shot lead on the 18th hole to eagle the first playoff hole and beat Logan Bryant (71-216) of Florida A&M. Nathu, who three-putted No. 18 from 18 feet for bogey, made a 40-footer for the win on the par-5 17th.
“I was shocked and frustrated about it (three-putt),” Nathu said. “I just had to forget about it. I hit one of the greatest 3-woods from about 270 to the fringe. I kind of felt like I would make the putt. It was a load off my shoulders.”
Linda Wang of St. John's defended her title in the Women’s Independent Division. Wang shot 72-214 and won by seven shots over Ana Ferreyra Heit of Bethune-Cookman.
Isiah Belton of Virginia State made a hole-in-one on the 17th on the Wanamaker Course.
Every player wore a pink shirt Sunday in honor of Mother’s Day.