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Former Susquehannock golfer Kendel Abrams looks to grow her game and her sport at Howard

ROB ROSE
717-505-5418/@robrosesports
Susquehannock High graduate Kendel Abrams tees off during a round of golf. Abrams recently transferred to Howard University and became a member of the school's first NCAA Division I golf team.
  • Kendel Abrams transferred to Howard University.
  • Abrams was elected to the board of the GenZ Council.
  • Abrams' Howard women's team will begin play this fall.

When Sam Puryear met Kendel Abrams during her recruiting visit to Queens University, he knew the young golfer was destined to achieve whatever she pursued in the sport and in life.

Abrams ended up going with another program, but the pair stayed in touch while she began her college career, not knowing they would join forces years later.

When Puryear was named the head coach of the men’s and women’s golf teams at Washington's Howard University in April, one of his first orders of business was to recruit the Susquehannock High School graduate to help build the program.

“She’s a leader,” Puryear said. “To build a new team, I had to have a leader. She’s just an incredible human being.”

Susquehannock's Abrams makes impact on, off course

Susquehannock High graduate Kendel Abrams tees off during a round of golf. Abrams recently became a member of the GenZ council to help find solutions to golf's current social and economic issues.

Abrams had joined NCAA Division II Converse College after she finished her winning Warriors’ career, but was missing one goal she set as a kid. The 2017 District 3  champion had received a scholarship to play in college, but not at the highest level, and the chance to join the Bison program presented too many opportunities to change her life.

“I had a dream since I was really young to play D-I golf, and since, I checked off literally every other box except the D-I title. So I was like, ‘You only live once. You can’t have any regrets in life,’” Abrams said of her decision to transfer to Howard, which is regarded as one of the top academic universities in the nation.

Passion to grow the game in new directions: Part of Puryear’s plan to pursue Abrams was based on what she can do on the course. But it also has to do with her passion to grow the game and include other women and Black people in a sport that has been dominated by white men since its creation.

Abrams created a nonprofit, Grasp Girls With Golf, while she was still in high school, and recently was elected to the board of the GenZ Council, designed to allow junior golfers to share their experiences on the state of the golf industry, what they hope the future will look like and how to address social and economic issues surrounding the game.

Puryear has plenty of experience with growing the sport himself. He played under the first Black woman to coach a men’s NCAA D-I golf team, Dr. Catana Starks, at Tennessee State University. He also became the first Black head coach at a Power Five school in 2008. He also has experience with nonprofit organizations and fundraising, but he hasn’t seen many people with the drive to grow the game of golf like Abrams possesses.

Kendel Abrams

“How many young people do you know that have started foundations?” Puryear said. “This girl has raised a ton of money and given it to girls who are about her same age, but needed help. I just don’t know what’s better than that. When you find young people that are selfless, you know they are going to run the world one day, if they choose to. I think this girl is a magnet to where she can do some things that have never been done before.”

Howard gets help from NBA star: Right now, what Abrams wants to do is improve her golf game and help her sport grow and improve. When the Howard women’s team debuts this fall, Abrams and the Bison will head to the course with new gear, courtesy of an NBA star.

Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry announced in 2019 that he would help fund the golf program at Howard, and along with his brand partners — Under Armour and Callaway Golf — outfit the teams with clothes and clubs. Abrams and her teammates took a trip to Georgia in September to get fitted for new Callaway clubs.

With the funding and equipment from Curry, Callaway and Under Armour, along with Puryear's experience winning championships at Stanford University and Michigan State University, Howard hopes to build a winning program after decades without the sport on its campus.

Making connections: Although she is at the school to play golf, Abrams is focused on much more than posting low scores at Howard. Abrams is excited about the connections she has made in the Washington area already and wants her team’s success on the course to shine a light on their pursuits outside of the game.

“It’s more than just being a D-I athlete,” Abrams said. “Coach always tells us, ‘We’re more than athletes. We’re more than golfers. We’re leaders. We’re role models.’ It’s crazy to see all the talent we have on our team, even beyond golf. It’s an unreal feeling because you don’t see a lot of minorities in the game, but then to see minorities in the game that play at a high level of competitive golf is crazy to see and show we have talents beyond golf.”

GenZ program: Abrams is excited to join the GenZ Council and speak about her experiences with fellow junior golfers. During the meetings, LPGA players can sit in and ask questions about how to change the sport they all love, which is something Abrams hopes will happen, with new voices being heard for the first time.

Susquehannock High graduate Kendel Abrams tees off during a round of golf.

“If you’re really trying to change the game, they have to go all out. It has to be something they can’t even think of right now,” Abrams said. “It has to be from a collection of other people outside of the game, because a lot of times these talks just happen inside the industry, and if minorities aren’t in the golf industry to begin with, the talks aren’t having as much of an effect as they need to have.”

One change the LPGA has already made is the Drive On initiative launched during February's Black History Month, highlighting the diversity in the game. 

Abrams hopes to be part of the LPGA Tour one day, but until then she plans to help out in her own way while making her NCAA D-I dreams come true at the school where her grandparents met.

If Puryear is right, being a member of the first women’s golf team at Howard University will be low on the list of career accomplishments for Abrams.

“Yeah I’m playing D-I golf, but I’m also making history right now,” Abrams said. “The world will see. Things will change, but for now it’s taking it step by step and day by day. I really see our team going far in golf, the world and life in general.”

Reach Rob Rose at rrose@yorkdispatch.com.