TOUR grows diversity through inaugural HBCUs event in Richmond
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Students from seven Historically Black Colleges and Universities competed in the River City Collegiate Classic presented by Truist
Written by Doug Milne @PGATOUR
Under most circumstances at a PGA TOUR Champions event, when the last putt drops each Sunday, a winner is crowned and the event’s overall impact and success is celebrated.
While that chain of events unfolded just as expected Sunday afternoon with Steven Alker’s compelling victory at the Dominion Energy Charity Classic, things, though, were far from over.
In fact, the end of the professional action at The Country Club of Virginia in Richmond served as the beginning of something remarkably special and even historic.
With direct ties to the Dominion Energy Charity Classic and First Tee – Greater Richmond, the inaugural River City Collegiate Classic presented by Truist kicked off its 36-hole competition Monday.
Seven Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) from the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) teed off Monday for round one at the James River Course at The Country Club of Virginia, still featuring tournament conditions. Tuesday’s final round took place at the recently renovated Belmont Golf Course nearby in Richmond.
Competitors included students from Elizabeth City State University, Johnson C. Smith University, Livingstone College, Saint Augustine’s University, Virginia State University, Virginia Union University and Winston-Salem State University.
“Dominion Energy long has believed in the mission of HBCUs and supported and partnered with them with scholarships, capital improvements and more,” said Robert M. Blue, Dominion Energy’s Chair, President and Chief Executive Officer. “We are excited to expand our partnership with these excellent colleges and universities to the Dominion Energy Charity Classic.”
“We are thrilled to be a part of the Dominion Energy Charity Classic,” said Bill Potter, Vice President, Communications & Engagement, First Tee – Greater Richmond. “We want to continue to build upon our relationship with the tournament. We’re just really excited to be able to showcase seven really strong golf programs and bring them to incredible places like Country Club of Virginia. For them to be able to play the same course – under very similar setup conditions – the pros played on is going to be very cool. Then, to move to Belmont Tuesday to play a facility that has been around in the Richmond community since 1917 is just incredible. This is a great mix of everything the Greater Richmond golf community is trying to do to help elevate itself.”
Virginia Union would claim victory at the inaugural River City Collegiate Classic presented by Truist Tuesday at Belmont Golf Course, holding off Livingstone College by 10 strokes. The Panthers were led by medalist Alkin Barkley, who finished four shots clear of the field at 3-over par total.
Prior to the official 36-hole competition, a Sunday Pro-Am at Belmont included young folks from First Tee – Greater Richmond and local business leaders.
“The Am-Am was fantastic, with local business leaders, student-athletes, and First Tee - Greater Richmond participants all playing together in a shamble,” said Potter. “Watching the interaction between participants and student-athletes was awesome to see, as our participants gained new role models.”
“It is of paramount importance to the PGA TOUR, the Dominion Energy Charity Classic and First Tee to continue to grow the game of golf while also bringing increased diversity to the sport,” said Dominion Energy Charity Classic Executive Director Steve Schoenfeld. “It was an easy conversation with First Tee, Virginia Union University and The Country Club of Virginia to bring this concept to life.”
“We were thrilled to be a part of everything going,” added Potter. “We have a great, long-standing relationship with the Dominion Energy Charity Classic, so when the opportunity came about to be a part of the River City Charity Classic, it was a no-brainer for us.”
“Our vision at First Tee – Greater Richmond is to strengthen the character of our community, and this event is a wonderful reflection of that commitment,” said First Tee – Greater Richmond CEO Brent Schneider. “We are grateful to work with like-minded partners at Virginia Union, the PGA TOUR, and the Dominion Energy Charity Classic to make an impact in the lives of young people and to deepen the relationships across all of the organizations involved.”
“Truist’s partnership and engagement with HBCUs across the markets we serve is one of the many ways we inspire and build better lives and communities,” said Thomas Ransom, Virginia Regional President for Truist. “Serving as the presenting sponsor of the inaugural River City Collegiate Classic allows us to continue our support of HBCU students in their endeavors – both on and off the golf course.”
In addition to Truist as the event’s overall presenting sponsor, Harris Williams served as the Am-Am’s presenting sponsor Sunday. Lowe, Brockenbrough & Company was credited for its presenting sponsorship of the reception Monday evening for participants.
“For so many of our students, First Tee is about providing the opportunity to be a part of that group setting, find themselves and really learn the core values of First Tee programs,” Potter said. “Whether they stay with golf for 60 years or just a few weeks, you are getting the chance to instill those core values within and carry them throughout all walks of life, whether it’s related to friends and family, college or within the business world. There are so many skills you pick up and learn through the game of golf. Our hope is that it gives all First Tee participants that stronger foundation for life off the course.”
“This was very much a collaborative between our organization, PGA TOUR and then, certainly, Virginia Union University,” said Kelly Brown, Vice President of Impact, First Tee – Greater Richmond. “It’s certainly great for our community, but also great to host these first-class athletes and expose our First Tee participants to those athletes to help them decide if they may wish to aspire to golf at the college level one day.”
“Our vision is to help strengthen the character of our community, which is something we try to through our First Tee programs and our three facilities in the Greater Richmond area,” said Potter. “Hosting seven Historically Black Colleges and Universities for a first-class golf tournament was something we couldn’t jump on board with quick enough.”
“There is a long and rich tradition of the game of golf for students, alumni, and supporters of HBCUs; especially the HBCUs that participated in this historic inaugural event,” said Lee Coble, Virginia Union University Head Golf Coach and President of the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) Golf Coaches Association. “This event was a breakthrough ‘first’ for CIAA collegiate golf. We are proud to be partners with those, along with us, who had the vision and commitment to bring the River City Collegiate Classic to life.”
The Dominion Energy Charity Classic crowned a fitting champion in Charles Schwab Cup leader Steven Alker; a win for the history books. What occurred after that with the first-ever River City Collegiate Classic, though, told a great story of what – and who – the future of the game is all about.
“This started as a simple conversation between a few of us on the No. 1 tee over a year ago,” Coble said. “So, to see what has happened as a result of our conversation is absolutely incredible.”