April 12, 2014
Cullowhee, N.C. - Western Carolina's quest for a third Southern Conference women's golf championship opens this Sunday, April 13, at the North Course of the Moss Creek Golf Club in Hilton Head, S.C. The 54-hole event will feature 18 holes a day, Sunday through Tuesday with the winner garnering the league's automatic bid to a NCAA regional.
Hosting the tournament for a sixth-straight year, Moss Creek's North Course will play at a par-72, 5,941 yards. The event tees off beginning at 8:00 am on Sunday morning. Live scoring is available online through GolfStatResults.com.
With nine top 10 finishes including seven top five's this season, Western Carolina moved into the national top 100 rankings, entering the conference championship ranked No. 99. Chattanooga is ranked No. 68 to lead the league, while Furman brings a No. 83 ranking into the weekend. Samford is No. 95 to give the SoCon four top-100 teams.
WCU has posted two team championships this season, winning the home Great Smokies Intercollegiate at the Waynesville Inn, Golf Resort & Spa in September and taking the UNF Invitational this semester in Jacksonville, Fla., in mid-March. The squad heads back to the South Carolina Lowcountry riding four-consecutive top 10 showings including back-to-back runner-up finishes - one coming on the South Course at Moss Creek in the Low Country Intercollegiate in late March.
"We are excited to be competing for a Southern Conference Championship this weekend," said head coach Mallory Hetzel. "The golf course at Moss Creek is very demanding, and that is to our advantage. Our team has worked hard all year and I feel we are peaking at the right time."
Leading Western Carolina's scoring five into championship play is sophomore Taylor Allison. The Elizabeth City, N.C., product has four top 10 finishes this season including her second individual medalist honors, successfully defending her title at the Great Smokies Intercollegiate back in September. Allison is joined by classmates Kim Mitchell and Mariah Hopkins, and will be flanked by freshmen Olivia Landino and Ashley Thompson.
Paired with golfers from The Citadel, WCU's scoring five will tee-off in the first groups of the day beginning on the first hole at 8:00 am. The Catamounts and Bulldogs are among twosomes in 10-minute increments.
All told, four of WCU's scoring five ranks inside the top 27 in season stroke average with Allison leading the way in 12th at 76.00. Only two of the Catamounts have SoCon Championship experience - Allison and Hopkins - with the previous finishing tied for 12th last year as a true freshman.
Mitchell is tied for 15th in the SoCon scoring rankings at 77.00 and recorded her career-best finish at the Low Country Intercollegiate with a runner-up finish. Landino enters the tournament after the best finish of her career, placing tied for sixth at the Mimosa Hills Intercollegiate.
WCU will be without redshirt sophomore Kristin Swindell at the conference championship event. She has been suspended from competition by the athletic department for a violation of departmental policies. Swindell ranked fifth in the conference in stroke average during the regular season.
Chattanooga will be seeking its fifth-consecutive team title after edging runner-up, Furman, by six strokes a season ago. The Mocs posted a team score of 895 (297-300-298), the second-lowest 54-hole mark in tournament history. UTC is also seeking its fourth-straight individual medalist. Last year's champion, Agathe Sauzon, returns and is joined in the field by teammate - and 2012 champion - Jordan Britt, the highest-ranking SoCon women's golfer this year at No. 133.
Furman has won the event a conference-record 13 times, most recently in 2009 - the first year the event was played at Moss Creek. In addition to Chattanooga's four straight wins, Western Carolina won in 2003 and 2007 and College of Charleston won in 2006. The Paladins have produced a league-best 13 individual medalists.
Western Carolina won its first-ever SoCon title in 2003, dethroning nine-time defending champion, Furman, by six strokes in an event hosted at the Waynesville Inn, Golf Resort & Spa. Three players - Brandy Andersen, Line Cordes and Rebecca Twiner - earned all-conference plaudits after the ground-breaking championship for the WCU squad.
After a runner-up finish in 2006, WCU claimed its second conference championship in a rain-shortened, 36-hole event held at Patriot's Point in Mt. Pleasant, S.C., in 2007. The Catamounts rallied from down five strokes after the opening round to edge Furman and former league foe, College of Charleston by four strokes.
The 2014 event officially gets underway on Sunday morning at 8:00 am.