Oct. 31, 2013
Cullowhee, N.C. - With an expanded 54-hole tournament format, Western Carolina is set to host the Hummingbird Intercollegiate Nov. 2-5 at the par-71, 6,767-yard Country Club of Sapphire Valley. Teams will again play one of the region's most pristine courses during the special time of year that has the mountainous terrain painted with the hues of autumn.
The 2013 installment of the event gets underway with a practice round on Saturday, Nov. 2 with the three, 18-hole rounds slated for Sunday, Nov. 3 through Tuesday, Nov. 5. The event is open to the public with free admission. Fans can follow all of the action from the 2013 Hummingbird Intercollegiate with live scoring through www.GolfStatResults.com.
Western Carolina wraps up the fall portion of its 2013-14 schedule by hosting the 54-hole stroke play event, welcoming nine other teams to the resort town for the four-day event. It is the seventh-consecutive year - and eighth time overall - that WCU and the Country Club of Sapphire Valley have hosted this intercollegiate golf tournament - the first at its current duration.
"We are very pleased to once again host the Hummingbird Intercollegiate in nearby Cashiers," said WCU first-year head coach, Bryant Odom. "The Country Club of Sapphire Valley provides so much more than just a pristine golf course for our program to use throughout the season. The club's membership, golf staff and overall hospitality have added immeasurable value to the program and the Hummingbird Intercollegiate for several years. This is a great opportunity for us to play a national field while showcasing this special place we call home."
The Country Club of Sapphire Valley is a private, member-owned club that features a valley golf course, plush clubhouse, state-of-the-art fitness center and tennis center. The course, which plays at par-71 and 6,767 yards, meanders through the backdrop of a mature hardwood forest and scenic mountains that provide for breath taking views and a natural setting. The course, which sits on a level valley floor despite its mountainous surroundings, was originally designed by George Cobb and was updated by Bill Bergin.
The peaks of the southern Appalachian Mountains and the fall foliage colors provide a magnificent setting for the final team tournament of the season for the Catamount men's golf team.
Groups will tee off on both the front and back nines with front nine tee times beginning at 9:30 am and the back nine starting at 9:35 am, both with 10-minute intervals. Five players will compete for each team with the best scores of the top four counting each day. The field also includes a combined six unattached individuals vying for medalist honors.
Western Carolina will tee off on the front nine beginning at 10:20 am on Sunday, Nov. 3.
A combined 10 schools and six individual players representing seven different states will comprise the 56-golfer field, all vying for both the team and individual titles at the 2013 Hummingbird Intercollegiate. In addition to the host Catamounts, two additional previous tournament champions are in this year's field including the defending team title holder, Samford, and 2011 champion, Appalachian State. The Mountaineers carded a tournament-record low team round of273 to claim the 2011 crown by two strokes over second-place, UAB, while Samford defeated tournament-host, WCU, and Belmont in last year's tournament.
Wofford marks a third Southern Conference school returning to the southern mountains of Western North Carolina. Other teams include Belmont, Colgate, Gardner-Webb, and Tennessee Tech with first-year competitors, Univ. of Evansville and Cardinal Stritch, a NAIA-member out of Milwaukee, Wisc., rounding out the field.
Eight of the teams attending this year's tournament are ranked inside the national top 200 including Wofford which ranks a tourney-high, 110th, and Belmont in at 118th.
Seven of the top 13 individual finishers from the 2012 event are eligible to return to the Country Club of Sapphire Valley including tournament runner-up, redshirt senior Daley Byles from Gardner-Webb. WCU's Tyler Lail, Zac Hughes of Samford and Belmont's Ashton Van Horne finished tied for fourth a year ago after carding even-par scores of 142, four strokes off the pace.
Western Carolina first hosted an event at the Country Club of Sapphire Valley in 2004 as Charleston Southern carded a six-under, 570, to win the WCU Intercollegiate. The Catamounts returned to the CCSV in 2007 for the first Hummingbird Intercollegiate. Battling blustery conditions, Western Carolina built upon its five-stroke opening round edge over Vanderbilt to cruise to the team title by a combined 17 strokes.
Vanderbilt was again in contention for the team title in 2008, nearly rallying past first-round leader Central Florida on the final day. However, the Golden Knights staved off the Commodores over the final three holes as UCF claimed team honors by a stroke despite Vandy's tournament single-round low of 275 over the final 18 holes.
SoCon foe, Furman, erased a six stroke deficit over the final six holes to rally past Kentucky to win the 2009 Hummingbird Intercollegiate, with Jacksonville becoming the sixth-different team to claim championship honors in the six-year involvement with WCU and the Country Club of Sapphire Valley.
Three seasons ago, Jacksonville carded the third-lowest, 36-hole team score in tournament history to rally from third place to win the event. The Dolphins carded a two-day, two-round score of 563 to defeat third-time runner-up, Vanderbilt, by six strokes. Then in 2011, the Mountaineers set the standard for the event with their three-under par, 273, in the final round to win the team championship.
Paced by the event's individual medalist, senior Casey O'Toole, Samford led wire-to-wire to win the 2012 Hummingbird Intercollegiate. The Bulldogs placed three golfers inside the final top 10 finishers, cruising to a 12-stroke victory with a two-day total of 570. It was the second-straight year - and the fourth-time in tournament history - that a team from the Southern Conference has won the team championship when combined with ASU's 2011 title.
The host Catamounts rallied from sixth place after Saturday's opening round by carding the lowest team round on Sunday, finishing tied for the runner-up spot with Belmont at 582. WCU trimmed 14 strokes off its opening round to make its run to near the top of the leader board while the Bruins were 10-strokes off their opening round 286, shooting 296 in the final round.
Western Carolina has twice had the top finisher with Andres Cuenca (2006-09) winning individual medalist honors in 2007, guiding the squad to its lone team championship, and Keith Tyburski (2003-06) finishing as one of the top golfers only to fall on the second playoff hole back in 2004.
Tyburski, currently the head coach at Colgate, brings his squad to Western North Carolina for the third-time since taking over the reins of the Raiders' men's golf program during the summer of 2010.
WCU is coming off a 10th place showing as a team at The Invitational at the Ocean Course last week and boasts the nation's top-ranked golfer according to GolfStat with junior J.T. Poston. All nine eligible golfers on Western Carolina's roster will see action at this year's Hummingbird Intercollegiate - five on the scoring side and four unattached as individuals.
Poston has led the Catamounts in all four seasonal events entering the Hummingbird Intercollegiate including scoring his first two individual medalist honors in back-to-back weeks to open the fall. The Hickory, N.C., native took top honors at both the Golfweek Program Challenge in Myrtle Beach, S.C, before following it up by winning the Cardinal Intercollegiate in Kentucky. He has a seasonal stroke average of 69.17, currently the best in the SoCon through 12 rounds and atop WCU's all-time single-season scoring ledger.
Lail, as mentioned, finished a career-best tied for fourth in last year's Hummingbird Intercollegiate.
Of the remaining seven golfers on the Catamount roster, four have tournament experience at the Country Club of Sapphire Valley. Senior Greg Bunner is averaging 75.67 through three previous tournaments in Sapphire, while classmate Jack Walsh has averaged 73.33 through six rounds in his first three tourney appearances including a career-best finish of tied for sixth as a freshman in 2010.
Senior Collin Witiak has played in the Hummingbird Intercollegiate twice before, averaging 74.50 per round while Matthew Turner has carded consecutive tournament scores of 157 in his first two appearances.
Three members of the roster are making their first tournament appearance at the Hummingbird Intercollegiate including redshirt sophomore Alex Simmons, as well as freshmen Nont Panayanggool and Evan Smith.
Complete results and recaps will be made available online at www.CatamountSports.com, at the conclusion of each round.