Sept. 8, 2008
Cullowhee, N.C. -
Both the Western Carolina men's and women's golf teams open their respective seasonal play today in out-of-state tournaments. Head coach Steve Lott and the women's golf team tee off at the Draper Valley Intercollegiate, hosted by Appalachian State, at the Draper Valley Golf Club in Fort Chiswell, Va., while the men tackle a tough field at the Aldila Scenic City Intercollegiate at the Council Fire Golf Club in Chattanooga, Tenn.
Western's women return two of its top three golfers from a season ago, including junior Desiree Karlsson, who currently sits atop the career stroke average charts with a 75.52 average through her first two seasons (50 rounds) and classmate Elin Mickelsson. The pair of Swedes averaged 75.69 and 78.65, respectively, a year ago.
However, there is a youth movement among the Catamount women. With no seniors on the squad, WCU has three juniors with a sophomore - Josefine Sundh - and four incoming freshmen: Christina Amoriello (Coral Springs, Fla.); Blaire Minter (Marietta, Ga.); Rachel Nelson (West Chester, Ohio); and Ashley Shinn (Gainesville, Fla.).
WCU took a one-year hiatus from the Draper Valley in 2007. The last time the Catamounts ventured into western Virginia for the tourney, Malin Fryk claimed medalist honors with a three-round score of 217, marking consecutive individual wins for the 2008 graduate. During the 2006 event, Western carded its second-lowest, all-time scoring total of 893 in finishing third, while the 2005-06 Catamounts won the event by 13 strokes with a two-round score of 591.
In its last trip to Draper Valley, WCU finished third behind East Tennessee State and Southern Conference foe, Elon, by a combined four strokes. Karlsson's best-ever finish on the course is 16th (73-73-80=226), while Mickelsson finished tied for 28th (73-79-77=229).
On the men's side, head coach Gorham Bradley will enter into a tournament for the first time in four years without four-time All-SoCon selection, Matt Cook. With one of the deepest rosters in school history - 10 golfers strong - competition for the five representatives was fierce during pre-season, and is likely to shift throughout the year depending upon course strengths and individual play.
The majority of the load, however, will shift to senior, Andres Cuenca, who has twice garnered all-conference plaudits. The Fuengirola, Spain, native holds the fourth (72.26) and sixth-best (73.53), single-season stroke averages, while also ranking second to Cook all-time on the career scoring average chart at 72.91. Classmate Dustin Furnari (75.35 last year), who transferred from Flagler College prior to last season, gives Western a pair with three-years of collegiate experience.
Behind Cuenca and Furnari are five juniors including Michael Chapin (78.50 career average), Benjy Davey (78.71), Ricky Stout (75.48), transfer Drew Miller (Illinois State) and Cody Walker, who is coming off a back injury that sidelined him during the 2007-08 season.
Adding depth for the Catamounts is sophomore Caleb Marsh, who was third on the team a year ago with a scoring average of 74.06, and freshmen Martin Summer (Newberry, S.C.) and Kyle Wilson (Mount Airy, N.C.).
WCU will open competition at the Aldila Scenic City Invitational, co-hosted by preseason No. 12 Chattanooga and No. 29 Middle Tennessee (rankings courtesy of GolfWeek). The 54-hole event opens with 36 holes Monday (Sept. 8) at Council Fire Golf Club and concludes with a final 18 on Tuesday.
At last year's event, Western Carolina finished 15th overall with a three-round score of 879, the 11th-best, 54-hole score in school history. Cook and Cuenca finished tied for 41st individually with identical scores of 219.
The Catamounts did, however, play the course twice a year ago. In the NCAA East Regional, Western Carolina finished tied for 20th overall with a three-round score of 864 - the fifth-lowest, 54-hole score in school history.
Complete recaps of the women's season-opening tournament from Draper Valley and the men's first tourney from Chattanooga, Tenn., will be posted at CatamountSports.com late Monday evening.
Click HERE for more information about the 2008 Aldila Scenic City Invitational.