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Ohio native Troy Taylor II in contention after first day of Bridgestone APGA Collegiate Ranking Invitational

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Troy Taylor II stands in fourth place after the first day of the inaugural APGA Bridgestone Collegiate Ranking Invitational. (Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

Troy Taylor II stands in fourth place after the first day of the inaugural APGA Bridgestone Collegiate Ranking Invitational. (Grant Halverson/Getty Images)

    Written by Robert Todor

    AKRON, Ohio - When Troy Taylor II was 12 years old he was able to play the famed South Course at Firestone Country Club, including the 640-yard par-5 No. 16 hole, dubbed The Monster.

    “He insisted he was going to play from the tips,” his father recalled. “I think he used driver, driver, 3 wood, but he got it there.”

    Fast forward 12 years, and the now 24-year-old Taylor II, a standout at Michigan State, was back at Firestone South on Monday, playing for something more meaningful, both financially and for the good of the game.

    Competing in the inaugural Advocates Professional Golf Association (APGA) Bridgestone Collegiate Ranking Invitational, Taylor II stands in fourth place after the first day after firing a 3-over-par 73 - including a bogey-6 on The Monster. Everett Whiten, a Howard University star, and Cameron Riley of the Bahamas share the lead with 69s. Cole Stevens, an amateur from South Africa, is third with a 70.

    The tournament concludes Tuesday.

    For Taylor – a native of Westerville, Ohio – and the other 15 golfers in the field, the Collegiate Ranking Invitational represents another step in their collective goal to compete at the highest level of professional golf. The PGA TOUR’s Pathway to Progression player development program is dedicated to enhancing competitive and mentorship opportunities for golfers from Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and underrepresented communities.

    Together, with the APGA - which conducts 18 tournaments nationwide - the Bridgestone APGA Collegiate Ranking, now in its fourth year, aims to create a developmental pathway for eligible Black golfers.

    “It gives a lot of us a chance to get out on the APGA Tour and get exposure to playing hard golf courses like Firestone,” said Taylor II. “It’s been really, really big for my personal developmental growth and I’m super appreciative.”

    The Collegiate Ranking Invitational takes the top five players in each year’s ranking from 2021-24 for a 36-hole event. The total purse is $25,000. Three players withdrew prior to the start of Monday’s play and a fourth had to withdraw with an injury after nine holes.

    Kenyatta Ramsey, the PGA TOUR’s vice president for player development, is understandably pleased to see the tournament come to fruition. The TOUR began to support the APGA Tour 11 years ago. Current PGA TOUR players Willie Mack and Marcus Byrd (the APGA Tour Player of the Year in 2023) have roots in the APGA Tour.

    “I went to a couple of events and, in getting to meet the players, you understand fully when it comes to the talent that is there but also the lack of resources that are necessary for advancement,” said Ramsey. “Ultimately, we want our tours, we want our sport, we want our product to look like America. That’s when we thrive, that’s when we have the greatest success, the greatest popularity. When everyone understands that golf can be in their future.”

    Taylor II will compete in the Q-School in September and hopes to compete full-time on the Korn Ferry Tour in 2025. He sees this week’s event as a “building block” to achieve his ultimate goal of playing on the PGA TOUR.

    “That’s the whole point of this [APGA] tour,” he said. “Use it as a building block, get confidence, learn more about your game and go make it where you want to. Courses like [Firestone] will expose you and show you things that you need to work on so you can play at the highest level.”

    Whiten and Riley each made five birdies in the first round. Whiten also had a double bogey and two bogeys. Riley, who played at Florida A&M, sandwiched two bogeys on Nos. 15 and 17 around a birdie on the 16th.

    Taylor II had three bogeys on the round and no birdies, but at Firestone South a par is often like a birdie on some of the par 4s.

    “You’ve got to drive it really good,” he said. “If you’re off the fairway just a little bit there are trees in your way. The greens are all really ‘slopey’ so it’s hard to even get the ball running up to the proper spot.

    “I didn’t have quite my best stuff with my irons so I was just trying to limit my mistakes. That’s why this golf course is so good - it puts you to the test mentally of how you’re going to get around the golf course. You literally can’t force anything out here.”

    Each of the players competing this week have the same dreams as Taylor II. Ramsey’s hope is to see all of them competing one day on the PGA TOUR.

    “The reality is, golf is probably the toughest sport to get to that top level,” he said. “First and foremost, you have to be great, the best of the best. I also think you’ve got to have the opportunities to be able to show that you are the best of the best and allow you for advancement. It’s a numbers game. The more of the top diverse players that we can identify and put them in position to be able to go to that next level, the more likely that they are able to be successful.”

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