April 13, 2013
Cullowhee, N.C. - Western Carolina opens play in the 2013 Southern Conference Women's Golf Championship this Sunday, April 14, seeking its third team conference championship. The 54-hole event will feature 18 holes a day on Sunday through Tuesday with the winner garnering the league's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
The tournament is being held at the Moss Creek Golf Club, playing on the North Course, for a fifth-straight year. The course will play at par-72 and 5,955 yards. WCU looks to build upon it's sixth-place showing in last year's event.
Teams had practice rounds on Saturday before the three-round, 54-hole event tees off on Sunday at 8:00 am. Paired with golfers from Appalachian State and Furman, WCU's first golfer hits the course with a 9:40 am tee time with the fifth Catamount teeing off at 10:20 am.
"Moss Creek is a demanding golf course from tee-to-green. There are no easy shots or easy holes. We welcome the challenge and look forward to getting the championship started on Sunday," said WCU head coach Mallory Hetzel.
Chattanooga will be seeking its fourth consecutive title after beating runner-up UNCG by three strokes in 2012. Furman has won the event 13 times, most recently in 2009, while Western Carolina won in 2003 and 2007 and College of Charleston won in 2006. WCU won it's first-ever title in 2003, edging Furman by six strokes at the Waynesville Country Club. In 2007, the Catamounts again took the top prize, rallying from down five strokes to win the rain-shortened event by four strokes over Furman and CofC at Patriot's Point.
The Paladins are the top-ranked league team this season, checking into the GolfStat ratings at No. 68 nationally. Chattanooga follows closely at No. 74, while College of Charleston is No. 77. Elon is ranked 88th to give the SoCon four teams in the top 100.
Chattanooga junior Jordan Britt shot a 222 for medalist honors last season and will try to defend her individual title, while last season's runner-up, UNCG's Fanny Cnops, also returns in 2013. Cnops, the SoCon Player of the Year and Freshman of the Year last season, shot a 225 to finish three shots off of Britt's pace.
Furman's Laura Wearn, the SoCon's highest-ranked golfer nationally this season at No. 37, finished fifth last season. Cnops is ranked 55th nationally. Appalachian State's Yue Xu, the 2010 champion, is also in this year's field.
Western Carolina has posted three top five finishes as a team this season, closing the regular season portion of its schedule with a fifth-place showing at the Mimosa Hills Intercollegiate in Morganton, N.C., and winning the Low Country Invitational which was also held at Moss Creek - only on the South Course.
"This spring started out slow for us," said Hetzel. "The weather early on didn't allow us to prepare the way we would like to heading into the spring portion of our season. We have built a little momentum lately winning at the Low Country Intercollegiate and in the University Cup."
Two Catamounts have scored individual medalist honors this season as sophomore Maria Kjelldorff won top honors in pacing the team to the title in the Low Country Invitational with freshman Taylor Allison winning the Great Smokies Intercollegiate at the Waynesville Inn, Golf Resort & Spa back in the fall.
Both Kjelldorff and Allison led WCU with a seasonal stroke average of 78.00 to rank tied for 30th in the conference rankings. A second Catamount rookie Mariah Hopkins - who posted a career-best finish of third at the Moss Creek in the Low Country Invitational - ranked 34th in scoring average through the regular season with a 78.50 stroke average.
Rounding out WCU's scoring five at this year's SoCon Championship are senior Michelle Bello and freshman Fatima Gonzalez-Carriles. Returners Kjelldorff and Bello are the only two Catamounts that have experienced the conference championship, finishing tied for 31st and 38th, respectively.