HOUSTON – Golf is an expensive sport.
To help alleviate some of that expense for diverse communities, rising PGA Tour star Cameron Champ donated $40,000 to the Prairie View A&M University golf program.
Prairie View A&M coach Kevin Jennings said the money will help the Panthers get closer to filling their maximum scholarship limit of 4.5 scholarships for men and 6 scholarships for women.
Champ played college golf at Texas A&M and is one of the few black golfers on the PGA Tour. His grandfather, Mack Champ got him into the game in northern California.
In March, Cameron Champ will hold the Mack Champ Invitational at Memorial Park Golf Course, which will allow diverse junior players a chance at a high-level tournament.
The donation of scholarship money was made in his grandfather’s name, Mack Champ, who passed away in October of 2019 shortly after Cameron won his second PGA Tour Event.
Building the program
Coach Jennings grew up in Michigan and trained under some of the brightest minds in golf. He was tasked with bringing the Prairie View A&M golf team back to prominence after a near 40-year conference championship drought.
In 2018, Jennings led the Panthers to the SWAC Championship and the team’s first NCAA Tournament in appearance. In 2019, PVAMU made it back to the NCAA Tournament and won another SWAC title.
Jennings has worked with the community to help get more access for his players to be able to play on tougher courses to set them up for tournament play. Currently, the Panthers don’t have an official home but use the private Sand Hill Golf Club in Waller three times a week.
The ultra-exclusive 9-hole course allows PVAMU to see a design that closely mirrors the courses they play in collegiate tournaments. Jennings likened it to a regional-level setup.
Changing the face of golf
Christian Latham is playing golf close to home.
The sophomore grew up in League City and graduated from Katy High School before choosing Prairie View A&M. While Latham said Tiger Woods is his idol, he patterns his game after Dustin Johnson.
“We’re both big,” said Latham, who said he averages 320 yards on his drives and can run it up to 370 with some wind when he steps on it.
Latham picked up golf in high school after falling out of love with baseball due to mistreatment by coaches.
His love of golf represents the fourth sport played by an uber-athletic family.
His uncle is Vince Young. His grandfather is former Astro and 2-time Yankees World Series Champion Cliff Johnson. His sister, Courtnie, played basketball at Tulane.
“When people see an African-American golfing they always say ‘You’re going to be the next Tiger Woods,” said Latham. “I want to be the first myself.”
Jennings has a young team, and many of his golfers have yet to see college competition due to COVID-19 cancellations. The men’s team hasn’t competed in a year. The women’s team had one competition in the past year.
Jennings said there’s a lot of work to do with his young team, while Latham believes the Panthers have the talent to place well in the SWAC.