Sept. 17, 2013
Waynesville, N.C. - Western Carolina put all five scoring golfers inside the final individual top-15 including repeat medalist Taylor Allison to rally past fellow Southern Conference member and first-round leader, Samford, to claim the 15th annual Great Smokies Intercollegiate which concluded Tuesday at the par-72, 5,932-yard Waynesville Inn, Golf Resort & Spa.
The Catamounts recorded a program-best, 18-hole score of 283 on Monday en route to a school and tournament-record, 36-hole finish of 570 to edge Samford by four strokes at 574 after the Bulldogs likewise posted a school benchmark with their opening round of 281. Mercer finished third with an even-par tournament score of 576, followed by Eastern Kentucky (582) and Methodist University (590) to round out the top five.
WCU and Samford both broke the previous 36-hole tournament record score of 575 shot last season by Morehead State.
The team championship in its home event is the eighth for the Catamount women's golf program all-time, but just the first since sharing the top honors in the rain-shortened 2009 tournament. It also represents the most recent time WCU won both the team and individual title. The last time WCU won the team crown outright was 2008 when it slipped past Wofford by five strokes.
This year's tournament championship represents the third-straight, top-two finish for the Catamounts, and the 11th time in Great Smokies tournament history. All told, it is the 25th team championship for the Catamount women's golf program dating back to 2000, and the fourth under head coach Mallory Hetzel.
WCU made its move over the final four holes of the tournament. The Catamounts' scorers played the final four holes at six-under par while both Samford and third-place finishing Mercer were one-over and three-over, respectively, over those same holes.
Allison became just the third player in the 15-year history of the Great Smokies Intercollegiate to win both back-to-back tournament and to claim individual medalist honors more than once. She joins previous two-time champions - and both former Catamounts - Brandy Andersen who claimed consecutive titles in 2002 and 2003, and Ashley Hovda, who won the tournament in 2004 and 2005.
Opening with a bogey on the par-4 second hole, Allison countered two bogies with five birdies to fire her best round of the season, shooting three-under par, 69. The Elizabeth City, N.C., native posted a pair of birdies on her front nine before carding four on the back including consecutive birdies No. 12 and 13 as well as No. 17 and 18.
Allison led the 67-golfer field with 11 birdies, one more than Mercer's Macy McRaney with 10.
Behind Allison was a two-way tie for the individual runner-up spot between Ellinor Haag of Western Kentucky and Sydney Needham of Samford, both one-stroke off the pace at four-under par, 140. There was also a three-way tie for the fourth position to round out the top five with first-round co-leader, Bailey Gray from Samford, Sofie Levine from Eastern Kentucky and Samford's Alex Jasper - who was playing unattached as an individual - at three-under par, 141.
For the Catamounts, redshirt sophomore Kristin Swindell finished inside the top 10 with an even-par 144, following up her two-under par 70 on Monday with a two-over par 74 in the final round. Swindell carded back-to-back bogies on fourth and fifth holes of her round, but was otherwise even with 16 pars.
Sophomore Mariah Hopkins trimmed five strokes off her opening round, shooting two-under par, 70, on Tuesday to jump 12 positions in the final standings. Three birdies on her front nine countered a bogey on hole No. 2 while she matched one-for-one on the back to finish with her career-best round.
Rounding out the side for the Catamounts were sophomore Kim Mitchell and freshman Olivia Landino in a five-way tie for 15th at four-over par, 146. Mitchell followed her opening round 71 with a three-over par, 75, on Tuesday, carding two birdies against five bogies. Landino, who began her final round on No. 3, was five-over par through her first eight holes. However, the Hermitage, Pa., product turned things around with four birdies over her final 10 holes, helping to spark the Catamounts' late resurgence to the top of the team leader board.
Playing as individuals in their first collegiate action, WCU freshmen Ashley Thompson and Bethany Galloway shot 75 and 76, respectively, on Tuesday. Thompson finished third among the individual competitors, placing in a tie for 26th overall at five-over par, 149. The Clyde, N.C., product carded 13 pars, four bogies and a birdie to shoot three-over for the day, a stroke off her opening round.
Galloway had six holes over par including a double-bogey on the par-4 No. 1. But she countered with three pars to shoot four-over, 76 - her lowest career round.
Western Carolina returns to action Sept. 30 through Oct. 1 at the Starmount Fall Classic, a 54-hole tournament held at the Starmount Forest Country Club. It's the fourth-consecutive season for the Catamounts to attend the tournament hosted by fellow SoCon-member, UNCG, with teams playing 36 holes on the first day followed by an 18-hole final round.