Cullowhee, N.C. – Four events in the fall and a busy spring that features seven competitions including the annual conference championship-crowning tournament comprise the 2018-19 Western Carolina men’s golf schedule released today by fourth-year head coach Tim Eckberg. WCU’s schedule includes five tournaments the squad competed in a year ago, as well as four, first-time events.
WCU opens its 2018-19 schedule in tournament play in early September at Kiawah Island and concludes in late April 2018 with the annual Southern Conference Men’s Golf Championship in Pinehurst, N.C., where the team champion garners the league’s automatic berth into the NCAA postseason.
“I’m thrilled with the way this schedule came together. We are fortunate to get an opportunity in so many elite fields, and one thing is for sure, we will be tested with every event we play this year. Our strength of schedule numbers will go way up, as nearly every event we play will feature a handful of teams that will be vying for a National Championship this year.” said Eckberg on his squad’s seasonal slate. “This is exactly the kind of schedule that I have been working to put together over the past three years. We will learn a lot about this squad and our players throughout the year as we gear up for a run at the SoCon Championship.”
Western Carolina bookends its 2018 fall semester with a pair of tournaments to be played on Kiawah Island, S.C. The Catamounts open the year Sept. 9-11 at the Invitational at Ocean Course, making their first appearance in the event hosted by the College of Charleston since the 2014-15 season. Then, the final event of the fall will be held on the Turtle Point Course at the Kiawah Classic, hosted by Charleston Southern Nov. 4-6.
As the calendar flips to October, the Catamounts return home to the beautiful Country Club of Sapphire Valley (CCSV) for the annual Hummingbird Intercollegiate. This year marks the 12th-consecutive year – and the 13th-time overall – that WCU and the CCSV will host the event. For the third time in the tournament’s existence, the 2018 Hummingbird Intercollegiate returns to a 54-hole over two-day format with 36 holes on the first day followed by a third, 18-hole round. The first time came back in 2013, a tournament won by former Catamount J.T. Poston with Wofford claiming team championship honors. This season’s Oct. 1-2 dates are the earliest in tournament history – a day earlier than last year’s event.
Gardner-Webb set a tournament 54-hole record score of 856 and fended-off hard-charging Elon (859) over the final 18 holes to claim the 2017 team championship. Clemson individual Colby Patton posted three-consecutive rounds under par including back-to-back scores of 66 over the first 36 holes of competition to become the 12th-different individual medalist in event history. Patton fired the lowest 54-hole score in tournament history, eclipsing the previous record of 204 set by Poston back in 2013. WCU finished tied for seventh last fall.
“This year’s Hummingbird, played in front of the best membership in the nation at Country Club of Sapphire Valley, is going to be the strongest and deepest field we have had in a decade,” Eckberg said of his home tournament. “The move to early October has spring-boarded this event, and this year is another step forward in the effort to make this one of the best college golf events in the country at what is arguably the best golf course in college golf.”
The 2018 Hummingbird Intercollegiate features a full field of 15 NCAA Division I programs. In addition to the host Catamounts, fellow Southern Conference members Chattanooga and Wofford are slated to compete. The field also includes defending champion Gardner-Webb, Austin Peay, Belmont, Central Arkansas, Charleston Southern, Eastern Kentucky, Elon, Florida Atlantic, Georgia Southern, Morehead State, Stetson, and Tennessee Tech along with individual competitors representing Clemson and Wake Forest.
“It’s sure to be a shootout once again this year, but the show that the Country Club of Sapphire Valley puts on for this event is second to none. It’s a special week and I’m lucky to get to give these great members and that special club a great week of college golf,” said Eckberg.
October continues with WCU’s first-ever trip to the Quail Valley Collegiate, Oct. 14-16. The three-day, 54-hole event, hosted by McNeese State, is slated to be played at the Quail Valley Country Club in Vero Beach,
WCU’s spring semester opens with a trio of tournaments out west, two representing first-time events for the Purple & Gold. The Catamounts are slated to compete in the Desert Intercollegiate by Cleveland Golf, hosted by Wyoming at the Classic Club in Palm Desert, Calif. Two weeks later, WCU will play in South Dakota State’s Jackrabbit Invitational at the Boulder Creek Golf Club in Boulder City, Nevada. On March 15-16, WCU returns to the Grand Canyon Invitational for a second-straight season. The tournament is hosted by GCU at their home golf course in Phoenix, Ariz.
The Catamounts head to the Palmetto State and the Country Club of Spartanburg for the Wofford Intercollegiate April 1-2, making their first appearance at the event since the 2014-15 season. The squad remains in the South Carolina a week later, just over the mountain for the Clemson Intercollegiate at the Cliffs of Keowee Falls.
In its final tune-up before the annual SoCon Men’s Golf Championship, the Catamounts return to the 36-hole, one-day competition in Athens, Ga., at the Southern Intercollegiate. WCU finished eighth two years ago, following it up with a 12th-place tie a spring ago.
The following week, the conference championship again returns to Pinehurst No. 9 in Pinehurst, N.C., April 22-24 to crown the league’s individual and team champions.
Entering the 2018-19 season, WCU returns four individuals including sophomore Michael Coe, who ranked second on the squad a season ago with a seasonal stroke average of 77.07. He is joined by classmates Zach Caudill and Chandler Metz, with George Whitbread marking the team’s lone senior. Those strikers are joined by a pair of foreign-born newcomers in freshmen Tumi Kúld (Akureyri, Iceland) and Louis Theys (Villers-Perwin, Belgium).
“We are going to be a young team with only one senior. Our new players coming in are loaded with talent and experience playing big-time golf and competition across the globe. They know what it’s like to tee it up with the best and have shown they can compete on the big stage. Pair that with a group of guys coming back that got a ton of experience playing last year and are ready to show that they belong at the highest level of college golf, and I think we have a chance to surprise a lot of people this year,” said Eckberg.
2018-19 Catamount Men’s Golf Schedule:
Sept. 9-11 – Invitational at the Ocean Course (CofC) – Kiawah Island Ocean Course (Kiawah Island, S.C.)
Oct. 1-2 – Hummingbird Intercollegiate (WCU) – Country Club of Sapphire Valley (Sapphire, N.C.)
Oct. 14-16 – Quail Valley Collegiate (McNeese State) – Quail Valley Country Club (Vero Beach, Fla.)
Nov. 4-6 – Kiawah Classic (Charleston Southern) – Turtle Point Golf Course (Kiawah Island, S.C.)
Feb. 22-24 – Desert Intercollegiate by Cleveland Golf (Wyoming) – Classic Club (Palm Desert, Calif.)
March 8-9 – Jackrabbit Invitational (South Dakota State) – Boulder Creek Golf Club (Boulder City, N.V.)
March 15-16 – GCU Intercollegiate (Grand Canyon) – Grand Canyon Univ. Golf Course (Phoenix, Ariz.)
April 1-2 – Wofford Intercollegiate (Wofford) – Country Club of Spartanburg (Spartanburg, S.C.)
April 5-7 – Clemson Intercollegiate (Clemson) – Cliffs of Keowee Falls (Sunset, S.C.)
April 15 – Southern Intercollegiate (Georgia) – Athens Country Club (Athens, Ga.)
April 21-23 – Southern Conference Men’s Golf Championship – Pinehurst No. 9 (Pinehurst N.C.)