Cullowhee, N.C. – Coming off one of the most successful seasons in program history in 2022-23, the Western Carolina women’s golf team opens the 2023-24 season this week with international play, traveling to the mountainous northern island of Hokkaido in Japan for the Pan Pacific Collegiate Golf Super League tournament.
Collegiate women’s golfers from the United States including the Catamount scoring five will compete against college players from several countries around the Pacific and southeast Asia for the individual and team titles. WCU is joined by teams from the host Japan, South Korea, China, and Thailand, as well as fellow schools from the United States.
The three-round, 54-hole event will be played at the par-72, 6,929-yard Sapporo Regent Golf Club – Old Course in Kitahiroshima, Hokkaido, Japan, the nation’s second-largest island which is some 13 hours ahead of the Eastern Time Zone. The tournament is scheduled for Sept. 6-8 with 18 holes per day, though most of the play will take place overnight stateside Sept. 5-7.
Live streaming of the second day from the second day of competition that includes just player introductions and opening tee shots will be available, with the third day following the top group on the final hole. Live scoring from Japan is available by clicking here. Results and post-round recaps will be made available as soon as possible following the completion of each round online at CatamountSports.com.
“When we received the invitation to play in Japan, it was something we could not turn down,” said WCU’s sixth-year head coach Courtney Gunter. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for these student-athletes, having the opportunity to experience the culture and history of Japan, as well as playing against athletes from so many other countries. To say we are excited would be an understatement!”
WCU’s squad took the 14+ hour flight over the weekend, spending time taking in the rich Japanese culture in the capital city of Tokyo before flying north to Hokkaido to prepare for the season’s first event.
The Catamount scoring five features fifth-year senior Victoria Ladd, redshirt junior Kayleigh Baker, juniors Elizabeth Lohbauer and Kaitlyn Wingnean, and sophomore Brie Mapanao, who collected Southern Conference Freshman of the Year honors last season.
“I couldn’t be more confident in the roster we have this season,” Gunter said about her roster when the 2023-24 schedule was released in early August. “We only graduated one player last year and have a very solid group returning. They have proven time and time again that they play as a team and win as a team. Our values are now deep-rooted in each of these players, and we plan to use those to build on the success we had last season.”
Mapanao, who also landed on the postseason All-SoCon team, paced WCU in scoring average as a rookie posting the third-best stroke average in the league with a WCU single-season record scoring average of 73.63. She capped her freshman season with a third-place finish at the postseason National Golf Invitational (NGI).
Lohbauer recorded the second-best season in program history in 2022-23 with a 73.70 seasonal stroke average, fourth in the SoCon which also bested the previous school benchmark by an individual. The Venice, Fla., product posted a team-best five Top Five finishes as she led the team in scoring four times.
Ladd brings her career stroke average of 76.70 over 82 career rounds into a fifth season and is joined by Baker and Wingnean who both are coming off their career-best seasons with stroke averages of 77.08 and 77.56, respectively.
Following the season-opening event, the Catamounts return stateside for a two-week break before returning to action Sept. 25-26 in match-play at the Aggie Invitational, hosted by North Carolina A&T at the Bryan Park Players Course in Greensboro. Last year’s event was altered to a stroke-play tournament with WCU cruising to the team championship by 53 strokes over rival Appalachian State. Two seasons ago, the Catamounts came home as runner-up in match-play at the same event.
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