Howard University鈥檚 men and women golf teams have participated in a number of high-profile tournaments and recently enhance its profile by joining the Northeast Conference. (Courtesy photo)
Howard University鈥檚 men and women golf teams have participated in a number of high-profile tournaments and recently enhance its profile by joining the Northeast Conference. (Courtesy photo)

While some people did not know what to expect when Howard University started a golf program in 2019, five years later, the program is thriving and on the rise.

Over the past few years, the men and women golf teams participated in a number of high-profile tournaments and recently enhanced its profile by joining the Northeast Conference (NEC). The move paid off handsomely as Howard captured its first ever conference title and the coveted automatic NCAA bid.

There are a couple of factors that contribute to the program’s success.

The first key to Howard鈥檚 golf success was the hiring of Sam Puryear as director of the program. Puryear became the first African American head coach at a Power Five Conference institution (Michigan State, 2008). Further, his coaching career has produced: one national championship, one Big Ten Championship, two Coach of the Year honors, two Conference Carolina titles and two South Atlantic Conference championships. More than 10 of Puryear’s former players have played in PGA Tour events, which includes one player participating in the Masters.

鈥淲e want to build something that no one has seen,鈥 Puryear told Howard University News Service in November 2021. 鈥淗BCU golf is getting stronger and better.鈥

The other boost along the road to the program鈥檚 progress was the generous financial contribution from NBA great Stephen Curry. In 2019, the program made national headlines when it received a generous financial boost from the six-time NBA All-Star and co-founder. Part of the agreement was that Curry committed to support the establishment of the university’s first NCAA Division I golf program for six years.

“I think the Howard program in general is going to give them, not just them, but kids coming up through the ranks, a vision of what they can be in terms of playing golf competitively and the doors it can open for them,” .

It did not take long for the highly successful Puryear to capitalize on the opportunity and to build a strong program, with the men’s and the women’s programs having continued to ascend and get attention in the college golf world. 

鈥淲e want to find the best student-athletes with the resources that we have available,鈥 Puryear said more than two years ago. “Dealing with a champion like Curry could help us build something and go after the best players.鈥

Howard鈥檚 men’s golf is led by senior Marcus Smith Jr., graduates Gregory Odom Jr. and Everett Whiten Jr. and freshman Bear Huff. Each golfer was named to the NEC All-Tournament.

The team made its debut in the NCAA Chapel Hill Regional, May 13-15.

The women’s team closed out the season in strong fashion, finishing second overall in the NEC. Some standouts include junior Morgan Horrell, sophomore Marley Franklin and freshman phenom Emily Mayne, who was named the NEC Rookie of the Year.

聽Individually, junior Kendall Jackson continues to soar as she won the title on May 8. Jackson is a two-time first-team All-NEC selection.

鈥淚 have always wanted to play golf at an HBCU,鈥 Jackson told Howard in 2021. 鈥淚 feel pressured slightly, but it鈥檚 more of a responsibility to be good.鈥

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