In an exciting debut, the UNC Asheville Women’s Golf Team was the proud host of the first annual French Broad Collegiate Invitational and College Am. The tournament took place at The Cliffs at Walnut Cove, the home course for the women’s golf team at the university. The College Am was held Sunday, March 24, followed by the Collegiate Invitational on Monday, March 25 and Tuesday, March 26. The Cliffs welcomed the collegiate teams for this inaugural tournament, as well as LPGA Hall of Fame Professional Nancy Lopez as a guest and speaker during a pre-tournament dinner.
The Cliffs at Walnut Cove has a dedicated relationship with the UNC Asheville Women’s Golf Team, beginning with a conversation in 2015 that asked, “Is a women’s golf team at UNC Asheville viable, and will it be supported by the community?” Members of The Cliffs community responded with a resounding yes, helping to raise $400,000 to establish the program. Once established with the means and tools necessary to support training and travel needs, the program was able to hire a coach and begin recruiting players.
From there, the program grew. According to Donna Bailey, Walnut Cove resident and one of the key facilitators of the program, “Once we had the team, we needed a strategic plan. And a goal.”
The UNC Asheville women’s golf team became dedicated to breaking into the top 200 in the country within three years. Recruitment ensued, training at Walnut Cove began, and the women climbed the ranks. After two years of renting a travel van for tournaments, The Cliffs at Walnut Cove residents and The Cliffs corporate office went Dutch on a customized and fully outfitted travel van for the team. The van, which was presented as a surprise gift to the team, allows for proper storage of equipment and includes built-in wireless internet.
UNC Asheville Women’s Golf Coach Ericka Schneider explains the importance of the van:
Having the van has been such a blessing this year. I know the girls talk constantly about how thankful they are for the support we receive, and for the ability to travel in a van that allows them to be relaxed, rested, and ready to go when we get to our events. It makes for stress-free travel, and that is a bigger help than I can put into words.
The benefits of the van are showing: the average GPA of UNC Asheville women golfers is 3.7. And, after rising 25 points in national ranking during the 2019 Kiawah Island Spring Classic in February, the team is ranked 201 in the nation. One point away from their goal, the women expect to break the 200 barrier during the Briar’s Creek Collegiate Invitational, set to take place March 18-19, 2019.
As the relationship between members of The Cliffs at Walnut Cove and the women players at UNC Asheville has grown close through mentorships and friendships on the course, the team has flourished. In further support of the program, members of the community have even offered to house tournament players for the upcoming event at The Cliffs at Walnut Cove. The ability to reduce costs for players and teams through sponsored housing at Walnut Cove means the sanctioned collegiate tournament will continue attract top schools, helping UNC Asheville players continue to play competitive games and rise in their rankings.