Sept. 14, 2012
Cullowhee, N.C. - Sixteen teams, including two making their first-ever tournament appearance and four previous team champions, will square off vying for both team and individual titles as Western Carolina and the Catamount women's golf team play host to the 14th-annual Great Smokies Intercollegiate Sept. 16-18. All told, 84 women's golfers are slated to vie for the tournament championship.
The two-round, Sunday through Tuesday event which began back in 1999 will again be held at the par 72, 5,932-yard Waynesville Inn - Golf Resort in Spa in Waynesville, N.C.
The 2012 Great Smokies Intercollegiate consists of three days of golf beginning on Sunday, Sept. 16 with practice rounds that start at 11:30 am by set team tee times. The 36-hole tournament will begin with a shotgun start at 9:00 am on Monday, Sept. 17, with the final round also teeing off with a shotgun start at 9:00 am on Tuesday, Sept. 18.
"We are excited to once again play host to the Great Smokies Intercollegiate," said WCU third-year head coach, Mallory Hetzel whose squad finished tied for eighth in their 2012-13 season opener last week "We have assembled a competitive field and look forward to getting the tournament started."
She added, "This year - having the opportunity to play in a tournament prior to the Great Smokies - we feel that this will give us a competitive advantage going in to our home event. The team is looking forward to playing host to 15 other schools, and look to improve upon last year's results."
The Waynesville Inn - Golf Resort and Spa was established in 1926, nestled on the hills and valleys of Western North Carolina. The 27-hole course sits on a former dairy farm and features rolling fairways ending in bent grass greens. The course was designed by renowned golf course designer, Donald Ross, who also designed Pinehurst #2 which hosted the 2005 U.S. Open. Golf Digest gave the Waynesville Inn - Golf Resort and Spa a four-star rating.
Teams will once again play the Carolina and Blue Ridge courses with the yardages playing out the same as a year ago. The Carolina course will play 2,979 yards while Blue Ridge, which features three par-3 and three par 5 holes, measures out to 2,953 yards to make up the 5,932-yard course.
"The course layout and conditions at Waynesville this time of year makes for an ideal setting for a college tournament. We greatly appreciate the local area and the staff at the Waynesville Inn - Golf Resort and Spa for their continued support that has made - and continues to make - this tournament so successful," Hetzel added.
Western Carolina has won seven of the 13 previous team titles all-time, including two-straight after tying Southern Conference foe, Elon, in the rain-shortened three years ago, and edging conference counterpart, Wofford, by five strokes in 2010. All told, WCU has won seven of the last 10 tournament team titles while also having claimed individual medalist honors six times.
In addition to WCU, three other past tournament champions are in this year's field including defending champion, Eastern Kentucky, Elon and Tennessee Tech, two-time winners in both 1999 and 2000. Those four will be joined by 10 other schools making return trips to the mountains of Western North Carolina in this year's field. Two schools - USC Beaufort and Sandhills Community College - make their first-ever trips to Waynesville for the tournament.
Looking back at the 2011 Great Smokies Intercollegiate, only four of the top 10 teams from the final finishing order return to the field in 2012 - WCU, EKU, Presbyterian and South Carolina State. Eastern Kentucky scored its first event team title last fall, edging the host Catamounts by four strokes, matching the lowest 36-hole score in event history at 576 - a mark originally set by WCU in 2005.
Only two of the top 15 individual finishers from the 2011 event are back for the 14th annual Great Smokies Intercollegiate. The two are headlined by last year's event champion, Western Carolina's Sofie Kvarnstrom. The Swedish sophomore won by three strokes a season ago over Jennifer Park of ULM, carding a two-day total of 135 - just one stroke off the event individual record of 134 set by former Catamount, Ashley Hovda, back in 2005. She is joined by South Carolina State's Cheryl Chua who finished at even-par, 144, to finish tied for eighth last September.
"I'm looking forward to defending my title and hopefully lead our team back to the championship of the Great Smokies Intercollegiate this year," said Kvarnstrom.
Kvarnstrom is vying to join two of her predecessors in Hovda (2004, 2005) and Brandy Andersen (2002, 2003) as only two golfers have ever won multiple Great Smokies Intercollegiate championships.
Tournament practice rounds begin at 11:00 am on Sunday, with both the first and second rounds on Monday and Tuesday mornings, respectively, teeing off at 9:00 am. Admission is free and the tournament is open to the public.
Full recaps and results will be made available online at www.CatamountSports.com at the conclusion of both rounds Monday and Tuesday.
ADDITIONAL GREAT SMOKIES INTERCOLLEGIATE NOTES:
* A total of 64 different teams have participated in the event all-time ... the 2012 tournament features 16 teams from six different states (Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee) including two - Sandhills CC and USC Beaufort - making their first-ever tournament appearance;
* Four of the six all-time tournament team champions will be in competition: Eastern Kentucky (2011), Elon (2001), Tennessee Tech (1999, 2000) and Western Carolina (2002, `03, `04, `05, `06, `08, `09);
* Defending individual medalist - Western Carolina's Sofie Kvarnstrom - returns to the field in 2012 ... She is the only previous GSI winner in the 86 golfer field ... Her two-day total of 135 is the second-best in tournament history, just one stroke behind Ashley Hovda from WCU who shot 134 en route to medalist honors in 2005;
* Three of the top four best team rounds have been turned in the past two seasons ... Gardner-Webb posted a tournament record-low round of 282 over the final 18 holes of last fall's event ... Eastern Kentucky matched the team 36-hole record of 576 originally set by WCU in 2005 ... All told, the 2011 event saw five teams set or match low rounds inside the all-time top 12 in tournament history;
* Western Carolina has won at least a share of seven of the 13 team titles all-time at the Great Smokies Intercollegiate ... the Catamounts have also had the individual medalist in six of the past 10 seasons, ending a three-year drought with co-medalists at the rain-shortened 2009 event.