Fresh off his program’s first appearance in the NCAA Division I regionals, Howard University director of golf Sam Puryear didn’t head for Carlsbad, Calif., to attend the NCAA Championships last month. He instead ventured to Surrey, England—not to get far away from the championship but to hopefully take another step closer to it.

Puryear attended the Underrated Junior Golf Tour’s inaugural European event at Walton Heath Golf Club. The tour was launched in 2022 by NBA star Stephen Curry, who has been on a mission to grow the game among minorities for more than five years now. Curry wrote a check for $1.6 million to get it started, which was merely one of his more recent personal gestures to supporting the cause of diversifying the game. His initial investment in minority golf came in August 2019 when he made a six-year commitment to support the establishment of men’s and women’s Division I golf programs at Howard, a historically black college in Washington, D.C.

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Brought in from Michigan State to lead the Howard programs, Puryear knows that were it not for Curry, he wouldn’t be roaming throughout the UK looking for more talent to keep the momentum going for a men’s program that not only reached the regionals, but also captured its first Northeast Conference title at Callaway Gardens in Pine Mountain, Ga., earlier this month. Those successes are a natural progression from back-to-back HBCU national titles in 2022 and ’23. (An NCAA rule against teams competing in more than one postseason championship prevented the Bison from vying for a third straight title.)

“Obviously, we’re in a very good place right now with the program,” said Puryear, the NEC Coach of the Year, who is losing three of his five starters and four players overall to graduation. “It’s been a lot of fun. I’m not going to lie, but it’s been a lot of work, a lot of teaching and a lot of learning.”

Some of the important learning has been done by Puryear himself. “I would have to say that I’m learning to exercise patience,” he said, chuckling a bit. “Because at this point, at this level where I’m trying to take us, a lot of things just don’t come fast. And you have to stay steadfast in your belief that improvement will come. You have to really stay patient in going after the proper young people, not only to help you build something meaningful for the game, but also to take that next step for the program.”

Fortunately, having a benefactor and supporter like Curry is a game-changer. Literally. Puryear said it is gratifying that the four-time NBA champion with the Golden State Warriors has given more than just financial resources to the program. And he sees how Curry has contributed to minority golf in myriad ways, including the Underrated Tour. The most recent Golf Digest cover story about Curry and his love for golf and his efforts to grow the game brought a smile to his face.

“I saw it. It was a great article. It spoke to a lot of the great things he’s trying to do,” Puryear said.

As to what Curry is doing on behalf of Howard, Puryear had a list. “Number one, I think just him believing that we could potentially do something that has never been done was really important,” he said, noting that he trades texts with Curry throughout the season. “I think number two, him taking a personal interest in our young people has been more than you could ever imagine. I mean, he actually cares about the young people, and it’s a lot more than just a level of donation. If he were to ask him, he could tell you about a plethora about a lot of the young people on the team. He’s had conversations with them, one-on-one time with them, and you just don’t find that in a lot of the benefactors of his stature and fame.

Curry’s pledge to Howard runs through 2025. Puryear said that’s merely “on paper” and that the two have had conversations about Curry remaining involved in some capacity for years to come.

“He’s excited for us, for what’s been a great four-year run,” Puryear said. “What we’re doing now is what we all dreamed we could possibly do. And so he’s a part of our family. He and his family are part of our family, and this right now is … we’re living a dream. We’re doing what we all thought we could do. The goal was for Howard golf to serve as that north star in our brown and black orbit and show people what’s possible, and I’m proud to say right now we’re doing just that.”

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