Texas Pan-Am, Bethune Cookman win PGA Minority
13 May 2012
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. -- Drama ruled the day on Sunday at PGA Golf Club, as the University of Texas-Pan American took home the Men's Division I title and Bethune-Cookman University claimed its Championship-record ninth team title in the Women's Team Division at the 26th PGA Minority Collegiate Golf Championship presented by Brown Capital Management.

Texas-Pan American, the first-round leader, used a furious comeback to claim its fifth overall title.

The Broncs, who finished with a total team score of 904, trailed Tennessee State University by five strokes entering the final round. But the team used a solid 1-under-par 71 by team captain Kevin Kirakossian, and solid play by the rest of the team to win the division by two strokes over Tennessee State.

Bethune-Cookman University and Savannah State University tied for third at 911. Savannah State senior Cedomir Ilic of Serbia took home medalist honors in the Division with a 220 total in the 54-hole event.

"My team has worked hard all year and it really paid off today," said Ofelia Lopez, the director of golf at the University of Texas-Pan American. "They came out with fire and determination and looking to win a title. And it happened."

Lopez was particularly impressed with Kirakossian, a junior from Oregon.

"He has always been our go-to guy," said Lopez. "He plays to win and plays for his team. That's what a leader is all about. That's what being a team captain is all about."

The Bethune-Cookman women's team, which led South Carolina State University by five strokes entering the final round, used a team effort to take home its second consecutive title, this time by eight strokes. The Wildcats finished with a 916 team total.

Hampton (Va.) University finished third at 956.

"We fought all year and it all led to this," said head coach and PGA Professional Scooter Clark. "We needed to come out and respond to South Carolina State, who played great, and we did. It was no doubt a challenge."

Tiana Jones of Alliance, Ohio, was the medalist in the Women's Team Division. The junior opened with an 82 on Friday, but bounced back with a sparkling 68 on Saturday, and a solid 74 in the final round on the Ryder Course.

Jones also earned an exemption from the LPGA into one Symetra Tour event during the 2012 or 2013 season.

"I wanted to play smart but I also wanted to play aggressive," said Jones. "I was dreaming about winning the individual title last night and my heart was in my throat all day. It feels awesome."

In Division II, Fayetteville (N.C.) State University ran away with the title, winning the division by 36 strokes and finishing with an 896 total.

The Broncos were led all weekend by Junior Jake Barge. The Fayetteville native shot a final-round 70 on the Ryder Course, and also claimed Division medalist honors.

"It was great for our team to get back in the winner's circle this year," said Barge. "We haven't won since 2009 so this is really satisfying. We got the job done."

Lincoln University of Jefferson City, Mo., finished second overall, while Morehouse College of Atlanta, finished alone in third.

In the Men's Independent Division, Justin Watkins from the University of Central Oklahoma took home medalist honors after a final-round 78.

Aaron Burton of Adelphi University in New York finished second, two strokes back of Watkins. Casey Foster of Central Oklahoma was third.

"It wasn't exactly the way I wanted to finish but I was still able to close it out with a win," said Watkins. "I am exhausted mentally, but was still able to hold it together. It feels amazing."

In the Women's Independent Division, Ariel McNair of Xavier University closed with a 76 to win the title by two strokes over Mia Campbell of Alabama State University.

Shanequa Valentine of Prairie View A&M University finished third.

"I made a couple of birdies on the back nine which really propelled me to this win," said Campbell. "It was a grind all day, but was satisfying to finish strong like this."

The 2012 Championship was played on the Wanamaker and Ryder Courses at PGA Golf Club, and featured nearly 180 players representing over 40 colleges and universities.

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