Five UNC Asheville freshmen women golfers returned from a Citadel-hosted tournament last week with the first trophy in the program’s history.
The Bulldogs’ rookie head coach said winning the tournament in the program’s first year is a proud feat.
“I recruited this group. It’s a very special moment for me as a coach for us to get this first tournament win. It’s kind of unheard of to get your first win in your first season,” said Breanne Hall, head coach of the women’s golf team. “Clemson’s program started three years ago and they just got their first win. So it speaks to the volume of how hard our players work and it’s great to see that hard work pay off for them.”
The Bulldogs competed against juniors and seniors, playing to and above their opponents levels. Jadie Thomas, a 19-year-old freshman art and design student, said they embarrassed some upperclassmen.
“My opponents were two juniors and a senior. It felt amazing to beat the senior,” Thomas said.
The Oyster Shuck Match Play tournament, held at Patriot Point Links Golf Course in Mount Pleasant, South Carolina, and hosted by The Citadel, was a match-play tournament consisting of a 36-hole day and an 18-hole day.
Coach Hall said in match-play each player goes one-on-one with an opponent instead of a team taking its lowest four scores at the end of the day. The players try to win the most holes, not necessarily have the lowest stroke count at the end of the 18.
“Match-play is when you’re trying to be up on one person, so if you win a hole you’re up one, if you lose a hole, you’re down one,” Thomas said.
Rebecca Black, a 19-year-old freshman biology student who won all three of her matches, said the team was confident going into the tournament.
“We said we could win the tournament before we got there. We knew we were match-play players,” Black said. “Usually in stroke play, everyone will have one bad hole that will affect their score, but in match-play, one bad hole just gets you down one.”
Coach Hall said the course had inherent difficulties but the Bulldogs were prepared for them. The heavy wind was the primary challenge.
“The course was right on the water, so it was really windy,” Hall said. “The golf course had four of the toughest finishing holes I’ve seen on a golf course.”
Black said practicing in Asheville regularly prepared the team for the wind.
“The wind was manageable because when we go practice at the Cliffs at Walnut Cove, it’s windy there,” Black said.
Coach Hall said other teams weren’t as practiced in windy environments.
“The fact that they’ve practiced in a lot of windy conditions, that definitely played to our advantage. Because like I mentioned the last couple of holes were very tough finishing holes and that’s where we closed out a lot of our matches,” Hall said. “Seventeen was a tough par 3 and we were able to hit the green where other teams were taking penalty strokes, so that definitely played to our advantage coming down the stretch.”
The Bulldogs are playing in the Big South Conference tournament this week which runs Monday through Wednesday. According to Coach Hall, the tournament will be stroke play.
Black said she feels prepared for the tournament.
“We have a lot of confidence after this win,” Black said. “I think we can go in there and make a statement.”
Coach Hall said nine of the Big South’s 10 schools will be in attendance at the tournament, Liberty University being the exception as they do not have a women’s golf program. She said the Bulldogs are up for the level of competition but there will be one heavy-weight in attendance.
“This win is a very big confidence builder and I think we have a chance to make a very big statement in the conference,” Hall said. “Campbell is the toughest competition. They’re ranked in the top 50 in the country, so they are a tough team but we are still going to go out there and do our best and see what we can do in the conference.”