Cullowhee, N.C. - Thirteen combined tournaments including five in the fall and eight in the spring semester comprise the 2017-18 Western Carolina men's golf schedule released today by third-year head coach, Tim Eckberg. This year's schedule includes WCU hosting two events -- one a semester -- including a return to the Country Club of Sapphire Valley in the fall and a new hosting opportunity in the spring.
WCU opens its 2017-18 schedule in tournament play in early September in New York, concluding in late April, 2018 with the annual Southern Conference Men's Golf Championship where the team champion garners the league's automatic berth into the NCAA postseason.
"The goal every year is to continue to make the schedule better, and there's no doubt that mission was accomplished this year," said Eckberg on his squad's seasonal slate. "The balance of the schedule is perfect with a mix of events where we will be the favorites, as well as those against power competition to test us and keep us grinding. The opportunity to see so many parts of the country and play incredible golf courses is great for these guys, but seeing so much different competition is even better. We may have a lot of new faces on this squad, but we are primed to make a massive step forward again this year in the national rankings, and I couldn't be more excited."
Western Carolina opens the year with the first of five, first-time tournaments, traveling to the Turning Stone Resort in Verona, N.Y., for the Turning Stone Invitational. Hosted by SEC-member, Missouri, the event is scheduled for Sept. 3-4. Two weeks later, the Catamounts travel to Memphis for a second-straight season for the Memphis Intercollegiate at the Colonial Country Club. Returning senior Dylan MacQueen finished third individually a year ago in WCU's first trip to the tournament.
As the calendar flips to October, the Catamounts host the first of two seasonal tournaments as it returns to the beautiful Country Club of Sapphire Valley (CCSV) for the annual Hummingbird Intercollegiate. This year marks the 11th-consecutive year -- and the 12th-time overall -- that WCU and the CCSV will host the event. Putting three golfers inside the top five led by individual medalist, MacQueen, and runner-up in returning senior Jackson Bishop, WCU claimed the 2016 Hummingbird Intercollegiate team crown on the strength of the second-best, 36-hole team score in program history (278-280=558). It marked just the second time in tournament history that WCU hoisted the team championship trophy -- and the first for the team under the direction of WCU alum, Eckberg.
For just the second-time in the tournament's existence, the 2017 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. 2-3 date are the earliest in tournament history.
"The opportunity the membership at the Country Club of Sapphire Valley has given us this year to move the date forward a full month is nothing short of huge for this event and our program," Eckberg said. "We have a full field of 14 Division I teams, which will be the largest and best field we have had in years. I can't wait to put on a great show for the members and our supporters in purple that week."
October continues with the final two tournaments of the fall semester including the Oct. 16-17 Phoenix Intercollegiate, hosted by Elon at the Alamance Country Club, and the Kiawah Classic, a three-day event hosted by Charleston Southern Oct. 29-31 at Turtle Point on Kiawah Island, S.C. The Catamounts finished seventh at Elon a season ago.
WCU's spring semester opens with a pair of tournaments in the Sunshine State of Florida, beginning with the Martin Downs Collegiate, hosted by fellow SoCon foe UNCG, at the Martin Downs Country Club in Palm City, Fla., February 11-13. The Catamounts conclude the month by returning to Florida State's Seminole Intercollegiate in Tallahassee Feb. 24-25. The event will again be held at the Southwood Golf Club.
Three events in March open with the 36-hole, one-day competition in Athens, Ga., at the Southern Intercollegiate. The Catamounts placed eighth at the Athens Country Club last spring. The month continues with a pair of first-time tournaments, traveling to Phoenix, Ariz., to compete in the Grand Canyon University Intercollegiate (March 16-17) before concluding the month at the Manor Intercollegiate (March 30-31), hosted by Longwood at the Manor Golf Club in Farmville, Va.
A second-consecutive month of three competitions begins April 9-10 at the Gary Koch Invitational, co-hosted by Auburn and Kentucky. WCU first competed in the tournament back in 2015, finishing tied for ninth at the event which is held at the Gaston Country Club in Gastonia, N.C.
In its final tune-up before the SoCon Championship, the Catamounts will host their second event of the year with the 36-hole Bright's Creek Collegiate on Monday, April 16. The one-day tournament will be hosted at the Bright's Creek Golf Club in Mill Spring, N.C. 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 champion.
"Similarly to the Country Club of Sapphire Valley and the Hummingbird Intercollegiate, Bright's Creek has given us a great opportunity to host an event to serve as a conference prep for us just one week before the SoCon Championship. Our entire team fell in love with this property the second we stepped on it last year. It's deserving of a spectacular collegiate event, and I aim to deliver them that in April," said Eckberg.
Entering the 2017-18 season, WCU returns three of its top four individual scorers from a season ago, each who will be in their final season of competition this year. The list is headlined by returning leading scorer in senior Dylan MacQueen. The Woodstock, Ontario, native was an All-Southern Conference selection last year, pacing the Catamounts -- and ranking fourth in the SoCon -- with a 72.44 seasonal stroke average. He is flanked by returning classmates Jackson Bishop -- 13th in the SoCon in 2016-17 at 73.76 -- and Bright Julamool, who finished the year 25th in the conference rankings with a scoring average of 74.76.
Those three returners are joined by four newcomers including junior transfer George Whitbread (Colchester, England / Murray State College), and a trio of freshmen in Zach Caudill (Wilkesboro, N.C. / Wilkes Central HS), Michael Coe (Cary, N.C. / Green Hope HS), and Chandler Metz (Wilkesboro, N.C. / Wilkes Central HS).
Eckberg concluded, "Our schedule again builds throughout the year with one goal in mind -- to bring home the first Southern Conference Championship for this program. I know we have all the pieces to make that happen. It's going to be a very exciting year."
2017-18 Catamount Men's Golf Schedule:
Sept. 3-4 -- Turning Stone Invitational (Missouri) -- Turning Stone Resort (Verona, N.Y.)
Sept. 18-19 -- Memphis Intercollegiate (Memphis) -- Colonial Country Club (Memphis, Tenn.)
Oct. 2-3 -- Hummingbird Intercollegiate (WCU) -- Country Club of Sapphire Valley (Sapphire, N.C.)
Oct. 16-17 -- Phoenix Intercollegiate (Elon) -- Alamance Country Club (Burlington, N.C.)
Oct. 29-31 -- Kiawah Classic (Charleston Southern) -- Turtle Point Golf Course (Kiawah Island, S.C.)
Feb. 11-13 -- Martin Downs Collegiate (UNCG) -- Martin Downs Country Club (Palm City, Fla.)
Feb. 24-25 -- Seminole Intercollegiate (Florida State) -- Southwood Golf Club (Tallahassee, Fla.)
March 12 -- Southern Intercollegiate (Georgia) -- Athens Country Club (Athens, Ga.)
March 16-17 -- GCU Intercollegiate (Grand Canyon) -- Grand Canyon Univ. Golf Course (Phoenix, Ariz.)
March 30-31 -- Manor Intercollegiate (Longwood) -- The Manor Golf Club (Farmville, Va.)
April 9-10 -- Gary Koch Invitational (Auburn/Kentucky) -- Gaston Country Club (Gastonia, N.C.)
April 16 -- Bright's Creek Collegiate (WCU) -- Bright's Creek Golf Club (Mill Spring, N.C.)
April 22-24 -- Southern Conference Men's Golf Championship -- Pinehurst No. 9 (Pinehurst N.C.)