Cullowhee, N.C. – With a combined 11 total tournaments over two semesters including hosting in the five-event fall, Western Carolina head men’s golf coach Tim Eckberg released his squad’s 2019-20 schedule today. The slate features five new tournaments for the Catamounts while spanning seven different states.
Opening in mid-September in Indiana at the Crusader Invitational hosted by Valparaiso, the Catamounts’ 2019-20 schedule culminates with the 2020 Southern Conference Men’s Golf Championship, moving this year to The Oconee Course at Reynolds Lake Oconee in Greensboro, Ga. – a first-time venue for the conference-champion crowning event.
“I’m excited about how this year’s schedule came together,” said Eckberg. “I was looking for strong golf courses and good competition, and I believe that we achieved that with every event. We have a great blend of events throughout the country, hitting seven states to test the guys, but also constantly see new and different competition.”
After raising the curtain on the 2019 fall in Indiana, Western Carolina University and western North Carolina take center stage as the Catamounts and the beautiful Country Club of Sapphire Valley again partner to host a collegiate tournament for the 13th-consecutive year – and 14th time overall. This year, though, promises to be the most special as the event formerly known as The Hummingbird Intercollegiate has been rebranded and renamed the JT Poston Invitational in honor of the former Catamount and current PGA Tour golfer.
“I’m honored to have the opportunity to change the name of our home event to the JT Poston Invitational,” said Eckberg upon the announcement of the tournament name change. “JT has been such a great ambassador of Western Carolina University and our golf program, setting the benchmark for all our current and future players to aspire to. Having won this event individually – and calling it his favorite course in college golf – made putting his name on it a no brainer. I also wanted to give the generous membership of Country Club of Sapphire Valley another feather in their caps.”
Traditionally holding a late-October / early-November date, WCU’s home tournament will for a second-consecutive year have its earliest calendar date with golfers on the pristine course Sunday, Sept. 29 for the practice rounds with the 54-hole competition set for Monday, Sept. 30 (36 holes) through Tuesday, Oct. 1 (18 holes).
Led by the defending event champion, Georgia Southern, three previous tournament-winning schools are scheduled to be among the 15-team field with six programs making their first-ever appearance joining nine schools returning to the mountain valley course. Typically playing at a par-71, 6,767-yard layout, the beautiful Country Club of Sapphire Valley is a private, member-owned club that features a valley course that meanders through the backdrop of hardwood trees and the scenic mountains of the southern Appalachians, providing a breathtaking view and a natural setting.
“I’ve said it over and over, but it’s only because it’s true; we are so fortunate to have this club and this membership support not only Western Carolina golf, but collegiate and youth golf in general,” said Eckberg of the Country Club of Sapphire Valley. “Without CCSV, WCU golf wouldn’t be where it is. Pairing this event and JT Poston on a year that his former coach, Bryant Odom, is bringing Kennesaw State to the mountains, and with it being arguably the best field we have ever had ... everything has come together perfectly.”
The fall portion of WCU’s schedule includes the Bubba Barnett Intercollegiate at the Ridgepointe Country Club in Jonesboro, Arkansas on Oct. 14-15 and the Pinetree Intercollegiate hosted by Kennesaw State at the Pinetree Country Club in Georgia. The opening five events close with a return to Kiawah Island, S.C., for the East Bay Deli Intercollegiate, hosted by Charleston Southern at the Turtle Point Golf Course at the Kiawah Island Golf Resort Nov. 3-5.
WCU’s spring schedule includes a pair of events hosted by William & Mary in Georgia and Virginia nearly a month apart but sandwiched around a trip to the Sunshine State of Florida. Spring competition opens with the Invitational at Savannah hosted by W&M at The Club at Savannah Harbor Feb. 15-16 with the Tribe hosting the Golden Horseshoe Intercollegiate at a golf course that bears the tournament’s name in Williamsburg, Va., March 22-24. In between, the Catamounts will travel to Fort Lauderdale on March 2-3 for an event hosted by Loyola-Maryland.
The home stretch of the 2019-20 schedule includes the UNCW Seahawk Intercollegiate March 29-30 at the Country Club of Landfall in Wilmington, N.C., and the Wofford Intercollegiate at the Country Club of Spartanburg April 6-7 in the final tune-up before the SoCon Championship April 19-21, 2020.
Western Carolina returns all but one from last year’s squad while adding four new faces – one international student-athlete, one as a redshirt freshman, and two from stateside including an in-state product – to the roster. Void of a senior, a trio of juniors – Zach Caudill, Michael Coe, and Chandler Metz – carry the banner into the new season. They are flanked by a pair of returning international sophomores in Tumi Kúld and Louis Theys, with redshirt freshman Tyler Bussert adding a year of experience to the side.
“With a fairly young team – and nearly half being new faces – the battle within the team to make events is going to be the best it has been in years. It will be a heavy competition year, and I have no doubt the line-up will change constantly throughout the year. But I feel we needed that within this team and it will work to make us better overall,” Eckberg added.