Bethune-Cookman looks to build on success

From left, Eddie Brown, president and CEO of Brown Capital Management, with the Bethune-Cookman team: graduate assistant coach Maria Garrido, freshman/medalist Matthew McKnight, Jean 'Momma Jean' Freeman (widow of former coach Gary Freeman), sophomore Alex Clapp, freshman JaMichael Jones, freshman Emmanuel Petrich, freshman Rafael Abad, freshman Jerrell Parrish and coach Loritz Clark, flanked by PGA officials Allen Wronowski and Earnie Ellison at the PGA Minority Championship.

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Loritz Clark spent enough time on the business side of golf to know how to sell his new gig.

Schedule and location.

After his first season as head men’s and women’s golf coach at Bethune-Cookman University, Clark now has another sales tool: a national championship.

BC-U’s men won the recent PGA National Minority Championship in Port St. Lucie, where the Wildcats’ Matthew McKnight and Kimberly Wong also earned the respective men’s and women’s individual medals.

For Clark, those are three more building blocks for a Daytona Beach, Fla., program that he considers to be packed with promise.

photo

Bethune-Cookman's Matthew McKnight won the PGA Minority Championship

“Our goal is to be more in contention in the bigger tournaments,” said Clark, 41, a PGA professional who has worked for the PGA Tour, Walt Disney World and Golf Channel in positions as varied as tournament operations and marketing. “Ideally, we want to try to break into the top 100.”

That might seem to be ambitious for Bethune-Cookman’s men, No. 224 in the Golfweek College Rankings, and women, who are No. 229. But that’s where BC-U’s schedule will come into play.

The Wildcats play warm-weather competition, with all of their events in the Southeast. Clark mixes a steady diet of midmajors with tournaments at traditional rivals such as Jackson State, Florida A&M and Savannah State.

Bethune-Cookman, a private, historically black university with about 3,600 students, is just minutes from “The World’s Most Famous Beach” in a city known for spring break and stock-car racing. The Wildcats play and practice at LPGA International at the headquarters of the women’s tour.

Clark, a 1994 Maryland graduate who played for the Terrapins, coached the Chicago State women for three years while working in marketing at Kemper Sports. Last year, he succeeded Gary Freeman, a golf pioneer who died April 19. Freeman started the golf program at Bethune-Cookman in 1998 and led the Wildcats to 12 PGA Minority titles.

There could be more success in Daytona Beach. BC-U’s men return all five starters - four freshmen (including McKnight, of Northern Ireland) and a sophomore - who won the PGA Minority by 12 strokes. The women will supplement two returning freshmen with four foreign signees - from Colombia, Mexico, Austria and England - to help cover the loss of Wong, a senior.

That overseas reach is a continuation of Freeman’s legacy, Clark said.

“It’s interesting to see the different ways of communicating, how the kids gel and take to one another,” he said.

Victory needs no translation, though, and that’s ultimately the common language that Clark wants spoken in his program.

“We’ve got the resources to compete at a higher level,” Clark said. “Everyone’s itching to come back.”

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