Women’s golf team swing into the new season with high hopes


Lucas Britt

Hailey Pendleton practices wedging out of sand traps at The Country Club of Asheville.

Jared Feinberg, [email protected], Sports Writer

UNC Asheville’s women’s golf team enters the season with high hopes after a record-breaking end to their 2021-2022 season in the Big South Championship.

Coming off their best three-day score in the Big South Tournament this past spring, the Bulldogs’ ascension to success is what led newly-hired head coach Ross Cash to join the program in the first place.

“So many things are in place already for us to be very successful on a national level. In the interview process I remember remarking that I think UNCA is a sleeping giant in golf, and it won’t take much to awaken it,” Cash said.

Cash enters his first year with the Bulldogs and his sixth in the National Collegiate Athletic Association after spending time previously as both the men’s and women’s golf coach at Florida Atlantic and Tusculum University, respectively. Coach Cash explained that he had played golf since he was 8 years old, having played in high school, at the University of Virginia and professionally.

“What got me into coaching teams was it was a way to have my son’s tuition to private school in Palm Beach County paid for. But after spending time with my teams and experiencing great success, I really developed a passion for seeing kids come around a common goal and work hard to achieve that goal,” said coach Cash.

The 2021-2022 season was a memorable one, as the women’s golf program set new marks in the Big South Tournament with its highest finish in fourth place, lowest team score of 908 and best individual finish of sixth place by then-senior and All-Big South honorable mention, Venecia Zaia. The Bulldogs’ score of 908 beats its previous low in the Big South Tournament by 18 strokes.

“I’m super excited especially after coming off our top four finish at conference,” said junior Phoebe Carles.

With the first tournament of the season, the Tulane Fall Classic fast approaching, players said they are excited to go out and compete once again.

“I’m really excited to get back out on the course and to compete again. With coach Cash’s new leadership I feel like as a team we can accomplish so much this year, ”said junior Madyson Gold.

Both players spent the summer back home training and preparing for the new season. Carles said one of the biggest things she’s looking to improve on this season is the short game. 

“Our team can compete with anybody from tee to green, but I think the short game is what will take us to the next level,” said Carles.

Gold said she’s looking to play with more consistency, and suggested she believes she could’ve played better throughout the last season.

“Over the summer I’ve been working religiously on putting and working on being more consistent as a whole. I played some really great golf this summer, so I’d love to just bring that back and see what awesome scores I can produce this fall,” Gold said.

According to coach Cash, consistency and control are areas the program looks to improve on this season. 

“I want my team to be the best in the country at putting from 4-7 feet and have the best overall short games with deft wedge control around the greens,” Cash said.

Gold, a Florida native, said the biggest challenge for the Bulldogs is not the new coaching style, but letting things get in their head during tournaments, which they’ve struggled to overcome in the past.

“We usually start a tournament really strong but fall off. I think once we break the trend as a team we can do some awesome stuff,” Gold said.

Coach Cash echoed that sentiment, and said he wants his players to focus on the main objective at hand during tournaments.

“I hope the people that play for me learn to compartmentalize things so they can accomplish their goals,” the coach said.

Last season in the final four of the Big South Championship, Carles lost in a tight match against No. 1 Campbell, 3 and 2. Heading into the new season, she has big goals for the conference play.

“Ultimately my goal this season is for our team to win a tournament. Our conference is in spring, but I think it would be a great confidence boost for us to have a win under our belt going in,” she said.

Gold, Carles’ teammate and close friend, shared similar thoughts. She said the Bulldogs played well last season and would like to keep that momentum going and “actually win a tournament this fall.”

“Well, I think our team can be great and I want to find out what is in the hearts of my players. How great do they think we can be? Then work diligently every day and see where that takes us,” Cash said. “Golf is the ultimate delayed gratification game, so we won’t get too ahead of ourselves.”

UNCA women’s golf’s first tournament is in New Orleans, Louisiana for the Tulane Fall Classic from, Sept. 12 to, Sept. 13.