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New coach, new van, new outlook: HBCU golf program looks to make a turnaround

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A few Alabama State golfers were warming up when they overheard a comment from an opposing team.

“How are schools like that here and playing like that?”

For ASU’s head coach Quincy Heard, it was a familiar question. It was early March, and “here” marked the second round of the Kiawah Island Spring Classic, the largest tournament in the country hosted in South Carolina. ASU “playing like that” foreshadowed the women’s program setting a program scoring record with a 912 (+48) score for the event.

Heard — a U.S. Navy veteran turned PGA professional — and ASU, an historically Black college not known for golf, are emerging in the sport at a time when HBCU athletics are gaining relevancy. ASU is one of about 25 HBCUs to feature a golf program, per the Black College Golf Coaches’ Association. But Heard, along with longtime Hornets assistant coach Robert Clark, make Alabama State the only HBCU with two PGA professionals on staff.

Alabama State golf coach Quincy Heard.

“I wasn’t coming here to be second-best at anything,” Heard said after uprooting his life in Portland, Oregon, for the gig in Montgomery, his hometown.

The women’s team finished 24th at the Kiawah Classic and the men’s grouping put together its best performance of the season a week later. The pandemic shortened the Hornets’ first season under Heard, though he believes the program was establishing itself before the lockdown.

From Makur Maker and Howard to Deion Sanders and Jackson State, HBCU athletics are expanding. The interest has reached Montgomery, with NBA veteran Mo Williams heading ASU’s men’s basketball team. Local businessman Alfred Seawright noticed, donating a new team van to the golf program ahead of its 2021 season.

Nine years ago, Seawright, an ASU alum, funded the golf team’s start. Seawright, the CEO of Medical Place, has gifted a series of donations throughout the River Region and believed in the vision of Clark, then ASU’s head coach. He initially covered the cost of Clark’s salary, Seawright said.

Dr. Alfred Seawright poses for a portrait in his office at Medical Place in Montgomery, Ala., on Thursday, May 21, 2020.

Dr. Alfred Seawright poses for a portrait in his office at Medical Place in Montgomery, Alabama, on Thursday, May 21, 2020.

Last year, Clark approached Seawright again, this time about Heard. Eight years after picking up the sport, Heard was elected to the PGA’s membership committee. In 2011, Heard started a foundation for athletes in the foster-care system. Now, Heard was in line to be ASU’s new coach.

“This is one of my students,” Clark told Seawright, “… We’re gonna turn this program around.”

Seawright met Heard and was enthralled by his vision. Heard talked about national titles and bettering the lives of student-athletes. Seawright wanted to help, so he gifted a new van, which was designed by a member of the ASU athletics office and applied by a local business. The players like the 2020 Mercedes, Heard said. It’s an improvement over the hallmark rickety seats and no air-conditioning of the old van.

“I think in Montgomery were set to see a whole different level of golf,” Seawright said, “… I hope the van can make a difference. There’s nothing like having something brand new.”

original article link https://golfweek.usatoday.com/2021/01/14/golf-hbcu-alabama-state-new-van/

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