Everett Whiten Jr. Wins Bridgestone APGA Collegiate Ranking Invitational

Facing a field of some of the top young golfers on a famed course, Everett Whiten Jr. proved up to the challenge, and then some.

A former Howard University standout from Hampton, Virginia, Whiten dominated the back nine at Firestone Country Club’s South Course to win the Bridgestone APGA Collegiate Ranking Invitational by four shots over runner-up Cole Stevens on Tuesday.

Whiten was tied with Cameron Riley at 1-under 69 following Monday’s opening round of the 36-hole event and bogeyed the first hole on Tuesday, but then went 3-under the rest of the way to post a 3-under 67.

Stevens (Augusta University) equaled his first round with a 70 on Tuesday. He and Whiten were the only two players in the field of 16 to finish even par or better for the tournament.

“A little nervous,” said Whiten of his opening 5. “I hit a good tee shot, it just didn’t kick into the fairway. Second shot spun off the green. I hit a good chip and just two-putted. I didn’t want to get off to that start but overall I just knew I could make some birdies.”

Whiten responded with a birdie 3 on No. 3, then hit two fabulous second shots on the ninth and 10th holes for back-to-back birdies.

Stevens also bogeyed 1, and the par-3 No. 5, but responded with back-to-back birdies on seven and eight to go out with an even-par 35. His second shot on 17 landed on a slope behind the green, from where he chipped on and two-putted for a bogey.

“I was pleased with my ability to just get [the ball] in certain spots where I could up-and-down,” said Stevens, a native of South Africa. “I made some good putts coming down the stretch to keep momentum going.

“I enjoyed playing [Firestone South],” he added. “I could have played a little bit better. It’s very demanding off the tee. I got punished a lot by hitting it askew this week.”

Perhaps the key moment of the tournament came on the 15th, a 221-yard par-3. Stevens trailed Whiten by three shots but landed his tee shot a foot from the hole for an easy birdie. Whiten responded with a 30-footer for birdie and his fist pump when the ball dropped showed he knew how important it was.

“I knew I had like a two-shot or three-shot lead but seeing that one go in felt good,” Whiten said. “That was probably the longest putt I made all week.”

Whiten parred out to come in with a 2-under 33 on the back nine. He relied on his experiences to stay calm.

“Guys I play with back home, it always comes down to the last four holes,” he said, “so I knew to stay patient, hit fairways and hit greens.”

Riley (Florida A&M) shot a 72 on Tuesday to finish third at 1-over 141. Troy Taylor II (Michigan State) and Gregory Odom Jr. (Howard) both shot 71s and finished fourth (144) and fifth (147), respectively.

Xavier Williams (North Carolina A&T) matched Whiten’s four birdies on the day, but also had four bogeys and a double bogey for a 72 and a tie for sixth with Quinn Riley (Duke) and Mulbe Dillard (Florida A&M) with 148s. Riley eagled Firestone South’s famed 16th hole, a 667-yard par-5 nicknamed “The Monster.”

The Collegiate Ranking Invitational represents another step in these players’ 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 or universities (HBCUs) and underrepresented communities.

Together with the Advocates Professional Golf Association (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.

“I think what the APGA Tour is doing for us is tremendous,” said Whiten. “This top-five ranking has been amazing. Giving us the opportunity to compete at places like [Firestone] and have Bridgestone support us. I’m fortunate and grateful for everything they’ve done and hope to play well and make a name for myself.”

Stevens was also appreciative.

“I’m extremely excited to be part of the journey that they are giving me,” he said. “For me, being an international, given this opportunity to come and play against these guys is really special.”