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Women's Golf Opens Spring Season at Kiawah Island Classic

Rachel Nelson is one of three seniors looking to lead the Catamounts this spring.

Feb. 25, 2012

Cullowhee, N.C. - The Western Carolina women's golf team opens its spring schedule Feb. 26-28 at the 2012 Edwin Watts / Kiawah Island Classic, hosted by the College of Charleston at the Oak Point and Cougar Point courses on Kiawah Island, S.C.

The 54-hole tournament gets under way with practice rounds on Saturday, Feb. 25, with three days of competition opening on Sunday morning with tee times starting at 9:30 am. Monday morning's start will also get underway with set tee times with Tuesday's final round beginning at 8:45 am with a shotgun start.

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The 33-team field -the largest fields in all of NCAA women's golf - features last year's runner-up, Campbell, and five Southern Conference schools including the host Cougars, Chattanooga, The Citadel, Elon and UNCG. Western Carolina finished fourth at the event a year ago with Blaire Minter finishing fourth to pace the Catamounts.

"We are excited to get the spring season under way. It has been a long off season and the team is ready to get back to competition," said second-year head coach Mallory Hetzel. "We grew up a lot in the fall and learned what we need to do to get better. Our goal this spring is to improve with each tournament. We hope to be peaking just in time for the Southern Conference Championship."

She added, "Everyone has been working very hard this semester. I asked the team to come to practice every day prepared and focused - and so far, everyone has exceeded my expectations. It is time to let the hard work pay off and execute when it counts."

WCU's spring schedule includes six tournaments and the second year of the head-to-head, co-ed match play event with arch-rival Appalachian State at the Mimosa Hills Country Club. The Catamounts travel to two tournaments in Georgia with Augusta State's Forest Hills Country Club and Georgia State Lady Panther Intercollegiate, with one held at the Eagle Landing Golf Club in Orange Park, Fla., hosted by James Madison. In the final event before the conference championship, WCU will play at the Mimosa Hills Country Club on the first weekend of April.



The 2012 Southern Conference Women's Golf Championship is April 15-17, 2012, at the Moss Creek Golf Club in Hilton Head Island, S.C.

"Our schedule this spring is very competitive - we will be challenged every step of the way," explained Hetzel. "It is nice to start off at a familiar place like Kiawah Island. It is a unique opportunity to play in the largest collegiate event in the country. Jacksonville and Augusta are both played on great golf courses and the fields are full of good teams."

Through its four fall events, the Catamounts had a nice mix of freshmen and seniors atop the leader boards. Fourth-year starter Blaire Minter paced the squad in two of the events while freshman Sofie Kvarnstrom led the team in the other two tournaments.

Minter posted a stroke average of 74.55 in the fall with a pair of top 10 finishes, lowering her career average to 76.75 - fourth on the school's all-time scoring charts. The Marietta, Ga., native enters the spring ranked second in the SoCon in scoring average. Kvarnstrom, who is fifth in the league's rankings, was second with a 75.18 seasonal average, carding her career-best round of 66 en route to winning the season-opening Great Smokies Intercollegiate.

Senior Rachel Nelson and freshman Maria Kjelldorff also competed in all four fall tournaments with the latter opening the season as an individual at the Great Smokies Intercollegiate. Nelson averaged 77.09 while Kjelldorff was just behind at 78.73. Junior transfer Michelle Bello (81.00) was among WCU's starting line-up three times while freshman Katy Kile (80.60) was twice among the starting five with a third senior, Christina Amoriello, playing in three events during the fall as an individual.

"We will again lean heavily on our freshman this semester. They are a talented bunch and will be even more dangerous after a semester of college golf under their belt," said Hetzel. "Also, this is the final semester for our three seniors. We want nothing more than for them to go out on top. As a group they are focused and ready for a successful season. It should be a fun spring and we are ready to go."

WCU's spring semester gets underway Feb. 25-29 at the Edwin Watts / Kiawah Island Classic.