Golf Returns to Palm Beach Atlantic as a Varsity Sport

WEST PALM BEACH, FLA.- Palm Beach Atlantic University will once again compete in golf beginning this fall.

President William M. B. Fleming, Jr. announced Tuesday the addition of a men’s and women’s golf program, which will be led by Craig Watson, a PGA Class A Professional since 1978 who has worked locally as the program director for First Tee of the Palm Beaches.

Craig Watson

“Palm Beach Atlantic aspires to be recognized as a stellar NCAA Division II athletic program and a winning golf program is the next strategic addition to our Sailfish athletic menu,” President Fleming said. “Our male and female golfers will not only exhibit the exemplary characteristics of all PBA athletes, but they will sharpen their life skills through the game of golf.”

Athletic Director Carolyn Stone, noting that there are more golf courses in Palm Beach County than any other county in the nation, cited the sport’s natural assets and an enthusiastic local following. She pointed to Craig Watson’s considerable knowledge and proven track record for building a golf program as the keys to his hire.

“Launching a new program requires a coach who is a self- starter,” says Stone. “Craig will recruit students who not only excel academically and athletically but who will positively impact the community.  His significant experience as a PGA member and involvement in our community with the First Tee program make him a natural fit for the Sailfish. “

Watson joined First Tee of The Palm Beaches, a non-profit organization that provides recreational golf activity to children with special needs ranging from ages 7-17, four years ago. In his native New York, he spent six years as the head pro at The Creek Club in Locust Valley, N.Y. and followed by two years at the prestigious Westchester Country Club in Rye, N.Y.

Watson holds a bachelor’s degree in economics from Rollins College in Winter Park where he was a scholarship golfer and also competed for the Tars’ soccer team.  

“At this point in my career, I'm happy to have this challenge to enhance the college experience of athletes who make the commitment to bring a winning golf program to PBA. The discipline of a Christian life and the foundational lessons learned through the game of golf will create a program built on solid rock,” said Watson, whose father was a golf professional.

A Tequesta resident, Watson and his wife, Wendy, have four grown children and one grandchild. He attends Christ Fellowship.

Watson will begin recruiting and developing the golf programs immediately as he prepares for competition in 2013-14. Though golf competes in both a fall and spring season, the NCAA presents the spring as golf’s championship season. Golf brings the total of intercollegiate sports to 12.

Golf is the first expansion sport since 1999 when the women’s softball team was reinstated.  The University carried a men’s golf program from 1993 until 2003 while competing as a member of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA).

“Golf is a natural fit to Palm Beach Atlantic’s athletic lineup,” Stone said. “With the many golf assets our community has to offer, the addition of these programs will bring students and visitors to Palm Beach County and South Florida. The program is certain to grow the reputation of Sailfish Athletics.”