PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. – Three-time defending women’s champion Bethune-Cookman University wasted no time taking the first-round women’s division lead, while Florida A&M University moved atop the Division I men’s division Friday at PGA Golf Club in the 29th PGA Minority Collegiate Golf Championship.
The 2015 edition of the Championship features more than 220 players representing 50 colleges and universities, 12 countries and two U.S. territories. The 54-hole Championship concludes Sunday.
Florida A&M’s men’s team, which opened with an 11-over-par 299 total on the Wanamaker Course, owns a two-stroke lead over Alabama State University. Two-time defending Champion Bethune-Cookman University is in third place at 307.
FAMU’s Rattlers, who last won the Championship in 2000, were led by senior Lyron (“La-Ron”) Henderson, 23, of Long Beach, California, with a 2-under-par 70. Henderson is completing his first full collegiate golf season, having transferred in 2013 from the University of Texas-Austin, where he did not compete.
“It’s a great way to start off this Championship,” said Henderson, who began play on the 10th hole of the Wanamaker, and overcame a lost ball and a double bogey on the 15th hole. “I grinded it out and stayed consistent. I had a couple bad breaks, but conquered those demons. My ball on No. 15 kicked left into the brush. After that, I parred out to end the front nine, then birdied Nos. 1, 5 and 9 coming in.”
Henderson has been medalist several times this season, but focused on something that he had been missing since playing golf. “Our team rapport this year has been phenomenal,” he said. “This year is all about us coming together and building relationships.”
Alabama State junior Branson Ferrier of Barrie, Ontario, Canada, posted the day’s low round of 66, sparked by knocking in a seven-foot eagle putt on the par-5 16th hole of the Wanamaker.
“It’s my third straight trip to the Championship and after an 82 in the first round last year, this made up for a lot,” said Ferrier, whose team made a 10½-hour bus trip to Port St. Lucie from the ASU campus in Montgomery, Alabama. “This was my second-lowest collegiate round, but my lowest of the year. It was great to arrive here and see how great these greens are. They are the best we play all year. You get the line and you have a feeling the ball will go in.”
Ferrier is a three-time ASU Most Valuable Player and competed in the 2013 Canadian Amateur, missing the cut. “A start like this makes you excited about the next two rounds,” he said.
Bethune-Cookman women's team, competing on the adjacent Ryder Course, used a 7-over-par 295 to grab an eight-stroke lead over the University of Houston-Victoria (303). Delaware State is in third at 312.
Freshman Mackenzie Butler Chatham, Ontario, led the Wildcats with a 72.
“I made a lot of really good swings and played smart golf,” said Butler. “And I'm really proud of how our team played, too. This was our best team score this year.”
In the Women's Individual Invitational, Cathleen Wong of Florida Gulf Coast University had a 72 on the Ryder Course. Defending Champion Tiana Jones, who transferred last year from South Carolina State University to the University of Maryland Eastern Shore, matched Grace Chua of the University of Delaware with a 73.
In the Men's Individual Invitational, Palm Beach Atlantic University junior Benjarong Murray of Clearwater, Florida, made his debut on the Wanamaker by matching four birdies with four for a 72. He owns a three-stroke margin over a trio that included Clemson University junior Victor Choi, University of Nevada-Las Vegas junior Phil Soo Kim; and Arkansas-Pine Bluff senior Nqobani (“Nick-o-bonny”) Ndabambi (“Da-bom-bee”) of Johannesburg, South Africa.
In the Division II men’s competition, Cal State University Dominguez Hills leads at 306, followed by Livingstone College at 308, and Texas A&M International University is third at 312.
In the Men’s NAIA Division, University of Texas at Brownsville opened a commanding 15-stroke lead with a 3-under-par 285. University of Houston-Victor is next at 300, and Edward Waters College is third at 315.
“I’m beyond excited by our performance,” said Ocelots Coach Daniel Hayden. “You couldn’t ask for a better start this Championship. It’s a good position to be in.”
The PGA of America and the LPGA will jointly award the woman with the lowest overall score in the 2015 PGA Minority Collegiate Golf Championship an exemption into the Symetra Tour's Mission Health Wellness Classic, May 15-17, at the Country Club of Asheville in North Carolina.
The PGA Minority Collegiate Golf Championship has elevated golf in minority colleges and universities by providing opportunities for players to compete in a national championship. In 2006, the PGA of America was granted complete ownership and management by the National Minority Collegiate Golf Scholarship Fund.