By Scott Godley
Port St. Lucie, Fla.
As a toddler, Florida A&M sophomore Jason Owens regularly terrorized the course, using the bunkers as his personal playpen while his father played. During the May 12 final round of the National Minority College Golf Championship, the course nearly got its revenge.
After entering the day with a seven-stroke advantage, Owens began his Sunday round by spraying the ball all over the PGA Golf Club’s North Course, enabling Texas-Pan America’s Rudy Celedon to pull even with four holes to play. Eventually, Owens would find his composure and make a pair of birdies en route to a final-round 78 and a 1-over 217 finish, good enough for a three-stroke victory and his first Division I individual title.
“I hit the ball horrible. This is the worst that I’ve hit the ball in a long time,” said Owens, who went to high school 30 minutes south of the tournament site. “I went to the range last night. I didn’t sleep very much.”
Celedon finished at 5-over 221, good enough for a share of third with Stu Michaels of Tennessee State, but he helped Texas-Pan America shoot low enough to leave with its first team title after a three-round score of 892. Led by senior Santiago DeLarrea’s final-round 69 (overall, he finished second at 4-over 220), Texas-Pan America gained 12 strokes on Florida A&M after starting the day five behind the Rattlers.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better way to end my college career,” said DeLarrea, a native of Victoria, Spain, who plans to turn professional in January. “I am so thankful for my school to give me the opportunity to play in this championship.”
Lincoln University secured the men’s Division II title, as its 914 team total was 55 shots better than second-place finisher Kentucky State. Leading the charge was junior Brent Bayer, who shot a tournament-best 2-under 214 to earn the Division II individual crown.
Argentinean Diego Besga was at home with high winds that circulated throughout the North Course all weekend, firing a 1-over 217 to claim the independent men’s title. The Johnson & Wales sophomore torched the front nine, firing a 33 on his way to a final-round 71.
“Basically, the difference between the front and the back nine was on the greens,” Besga said. “I made putts on the front nine I didn’t make on the back nine.”
Bethune-Cookman swept the women’s competition, taking the team title over Texas-Pan America with 967. B-CC senior Maulana Dotch won individual honors with an 18-over 234.