Sep 6, 2013
Cullowhee, N.C. - Western Carolina's men's and women's golf teams both open their 2013-14 season this weekend with the Golfweek Program Challenge. The two teams will compete independently of each other in Myrtle Beach, S.C. - the women at the Caledonia Golf & Fish Club and the men at the True Blue Golf Club - but will score collectively as a combined program for the overall champion.
Both squads will compete for a tournament championship in their independent 54-hole events. The men's and women's final score will be combined to crown an overall event champion. The Golfweek Program Challenge, which is in its third year overall, gets underway with 18 holes on Sunday with the second and third rounds to follow Monday and Tuesday.
In their first trip to the unique-format tournament a year ago, WCU finished seventh-place out of 12 teams combined as the Catamount men finished fourth and the women were tied for eighth.
The Catamount men, under first-year head coach Bryant Odom, will field a side of five returners for their season-opener, led by junior J.T. Poston who averaged 72.26 strokes per round in 2012-13 and earned an at-large bid into the NCAA regional post-season. Poston tallied seven top 10's including five top five finishes, recording a career-best tied for second showing at the Wexford Intercollegiate.
Greg Bunner, the lone senior slated to start the season opening tournament, saw action in six events a year ago. The Gastonia, N.C., native has a career stroke average of 77.39. WCU's lineup includes redshirt junior Collin Witiak, junior Matthew Turner and sophomore Tyler Lail. Witiak is WCU's second-leading returning scorer, averaging 77.14 strokes per round in 2012-13.
On the women's side, head coach Mallory Hetzel only returns two players from a season ago - sophomores Taylor Allison and Mariah Hopkins. Allison led the Catamounts in scoring during her rookie season with a stroke average of 77.84. She claimed individual medalist honors at the Great Smokies Intercollegiate for a top-10 finish, pacing WCU in four events. Hopkins led the squad in her first collegiate event - the 2012 Golfweek Program Challenge, finishing tied for 24th.
WCU will have three new faces teeing off on Sunday including two transfers - Florida Gulf Coast transfer, redshirt sophomore Kristen Swindell and sophomore Sandhills Community College transfer, Kim Mitchell - with true freshman Olivia Landino (Hermitage, Pa.)
Practice rounds will be held on Saturday ahead of Sunday's opening rounds.