Travel United Credits Awards Wings to HBCU Golf Programs

Travel United Credits Awards Wings to HBCU Golf Programs

Keeping the program alive

When Prairie View A&M lost its golf instructor last fall, Latham had just graduated summa cum laude, completed his architecture studies in three years, and started working on his master’s. But the team needed a coach, and Latham climbed dramatically.

“He suspended the Mustangs last year for both teams,” Levester said.

Like Levister, Latham was a multi-sport athlete who started playing golf because of his father. But his favorite sport was baseball – for 20 years his grandfather Cliff Johnson played in major leagues, including two world championships with the New York Yankees.

By the time Latham reached high school, he had been disillusioned with baseball. He has suffered racist mockery, many times from adults and coaches who have blatantly lied to him.

“I lost my passion for baseball,” he said. “I don’t want to play anymore. That’s what got me really stuck in golf because at the end of the day, no one else can say anything about me as long as I’m scoring a goal that I need to score.”

“So that’s how I really got in. And I’m just concentrating on golf now. That’s what got me going.”

The summer before entering high school in Katy, Texas, a suburb of Houston, Latham spent every day on the golf course. He shot 111 in his first tournament, but by the end of the summer, he broke 80 for the first time. With continuous improvement, he began to consider playing in college and verbally committed to Prairie View A&M after his sophomore year.

In addition to studying for his master’s, designing a training facility for a golf team as a study project, and hitting balls at range, Latham gets hands-on experience by working for an architecture firm several days a week. Latham said he also has a 14-month-old son named Kai – who is full of “joy and happiness” – half a week.

“He’s like my little twin,” Latham said. “So I’ve now got him a plastic set of putters and seeing him want to play with that is great.”

Just because he’s working on a master’s degree doesn’t mean Latham is giving up on his dream of playing golf professionally. He’s already played in one APGA event and hopes to play well enough this year to finish in the top five of her collegiate rankings, giving him a scholarship to access Tour events for the remainder of the 2023 season.

“I will not stop this goal and stop this dream,” he said. “I will continue to work hard this semester to try to reach that level or continue to add to where I need to be.”

Giving wings to players

With travel credits from United, schools like Prairie View A&M will be able to compete in high-profile events that might otherwise seem out of reach — quite literally.

Levester, who rode 11 hours from Durham, North Carolina, to Port St. Lucie, Florida for a collegiate championship, is already beginning to put those credits to work.

“Even in the short time I’ve been here, it has saved us a tremendous amount of time and money just being able to get to the Houston airport and fly,” she said. “Just reducing travel costs helps tremendously because we can now use that money to give them a better experience as a student-athlete and college golfer.”

Latham recalls the 15-hour bus ride from Houston to Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, where the Panthers played—and won—the 2021 PGA Works Championship at TPC Sawgrass. With two days of travel in each direction and the tournament itself, the Black Panthers went nine days.

That’s why Latham planned on Wednesday to thank Griffiths for United’s support. That United and organizations such as the PGA TOUR see value in HBCU golf has been a huge help.

“I want to say it makes us feel more comfortable when we don’t have to travel,” Latham said, cramming for 14 hours, 16 hours, when we could only get on the plane for two hours. It affects the team.

He continued, “I mean, we’ve had times where people didn’t have enough seats on the bus and we’re kind of locked up or had to take multiple trips to get somewhere because there’s not enough room to get everyone. So, it means a lot. It gives us the opportunity to try Feeling like we’re a sports program because we see other sports programs traveling like that. And we didn’t necessarily have to.”

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