Women’s golf continues to improve and shows excitement ahead of their home tournament


UNC Athletics

Junior Veneica Zaia admires her opening drive.

Jared Feinberg, Sports Writer, [email protected]

UNC Asheville women’s golf team continues to show improvement on the course, finishing fourth in the Buccaneer Classic by a score of 943 (+79).

The Bulldogs finished ahead of Big South conference foes such as Gardner-Webb and Winthrop thanks to the performances of juniors Phoebe Carles and Venecia Zaia, both of whom shot an identical score of 234 (+18).

UNCA head coach Ross Cash praised his two top performers, saying the juniors will produce great things before the year ends. 

“We have great players on our team and Phoebe and Venecia are two of them. Quite frankly they are both better than they have shown this year,” coach Cash said.

Zaia, who carded a 75 in the tournament’s second round, said she believed she could’ve played better at the Buccaneer Classic in Goose Creek, South Carolina, explaining that the short game saved her after struggling to keep the ball straight.

“I wouldn’t say my performance was great, I would say I did okay. On the first day, I played well with scores of 74 and 75. That day I was putting really well and getting up and down when I needed to,” Zaia said.

Carles, +6 (78) in the final round of the tournament, graded her performance a “C” despite the conditions she played in the first and final rounds. 

“I played well considering the conditions, but my second round on day one was a struggle. I wouldn’t say I did anything differently, I’ve been trying to go into every tournament and round keeping my mind where my feet are and not worrying about anything not in the present moment,” said Carles.

Zaia said her teammate’s performance this season has been great so far, calling Carles a team player, someone who uplifts everyone and never gave up despite lesser playing conditions.

“She can hit it far and she always stays positive, which is something I admire about her. At the Buccaneer Classic, she did amazing on the third day. Shooting 78 in the conditions we were given was awesome,” Zaia explained.

Carles notes that while she and her teammates were disappointed in their performances, she is proud of how they have done so far this season.

“This week we were all disappointed about our performance, but we still finished in the top four and beat four out of the five teams in our conference, which is encouraging to see we can still do that even on a day we’re not our best,” said Carles.

Coach Cash said he continues to see improvement from his student-athletes each week.

“I think each week I see a greater understanding of how I want the game played from a coaching standpoint and, overall, better commitment to our team game plan on how to attack the golf course,” said coach Cash.

Zaia said she and her teammates have improved in being there for each other when things get rough on the golf course.

“When one of us is down or not playing well, somebody steps up and helps the team. I can’t tell you how grateful I am to have these girls by my side,” Zaia said.

Carles, a South Carolina native, was excited about the opportunity to play on courses in her home state. Though, she explains that the course she played in the Buccaneer Classic is different from what she is used to.

“In a way, South Carolina beach courses are different from what I’m used to, considering I’m from the upstate. But I’m excited for Spartanburg this week because I grew up playing courses in that area,” Carles said.

To kick off the final full month of the fall semester, UNCA will be hosting the French Broad Collegiate Invitational at Walnut Cove. The tournament begins on Nov. 6 through Nov. 7.

Carles expressed her excitement for the home tournament because of the match play rules that will be in effect for the event, believing her teammates can thrive with this style of play.

“This year is special because we’ll be playing match play which is individual matches against other teams. Venecia beat the number one player in our conference last year in the match play portion, and one of my biggest wins in high school was the Carolina’s Golf Association Junior Match Play in 2019,” Carles said.

Zaia said she is also excited about the match-play tournament at Walnut Cove, expressing the same feelings Carles has while mentioning the potential challenges ahead.

“I am sure this tournament will be super fun. We are going to face some challenges from the teams coming and playing in our tournament but I am sure we will overcome these challenges,” Zaia said.

Zaia gave her thanks to the people working at Walnut Cove and around the city of Asheville for the support they have given her and her teammates.

“We are super thankful to have the support we get from them and the school as well,” she said.

Coach Cash also expressed his excitement while citing the responsibility of being the host team. 

“Hosting is always exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time. I’m excited to play at home but always have your hosting duties in the back of your mind as well as making sure other teams and coaches have everything they need. We look forward to competing at Walnut Cove,” said coach Cash.