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WCU Stories

A Season to Remember

Women's golf wins four titles, earns trip to the postseason in 2022-23

by Brooklyn Brown '22 MA

Women’s golf head coach Courtney Gunter came to Western Carolina University in 2018 with a vision for success.

Gunter is an alumna of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill where she played golf from 2009-2013, appearing in two NCAA Championship tournaments and winning an Atlantic Coast Conference championship.

The 2022-23 Southern Conference Coach of the Year recruited her current top-notch players fearlessly and has carefully curated a positive team atmosphere.

golfer swinging club
golfer squatting

“When I came into this program, they were ranked about 241 and there's not many places below that,” Gunter said. “So, we knew we were going to have to kind of build out from the bottom. Each year, I added two to three players and I was just looking for players that had talent, obviously, but that would also fit into this culture that I was trying to build of playing for your teammates, being there for each other, working hard and having a good time. We like to have fun and enjoy what we're doing.”

Gunter has witnessed tremendous growth in her team since 2018, leading to a record-breaking 2022-23 season.

golfer swinging
golfer swinging out of sand
golfer about to swing

“Each year we progressively got closer to that goal and we've built a pretty strong culture since then,” Gunter said. “They've gotten better on the golf course, but that's through hard work and doing the right things day in and day out. They've also really become close as teammates. They respect each other. They have fun with each other on and off the golf course. And when we're at tournaments, they play for each other. That's very evident.”

The team crushed its goals last season, earning four team tournament titles, finishing third at the 2023 Southern Conference Women’s Golf Championship and playing in the postseason at the inaugural National Golf Invitational in Arizona.

golfers jumping with trophy

The Catamounts’ third place finish at the SoCon was the team’s eighth podium finish of the season, the fifth podium finish at the championship in school history and the best team finish since winning the championship in 2007. Fifth-year senior Madison Isaacson, from Greensboro, finished in fourth place, the best finish for an individual since Kim Mitchell’s tie for fourth in 2015. True freshman Brie Mapanao, from Australia, came in a four-way tie for 10th place, giving the Catamounts two top 10 finishes. Mapanao earned the title of 2022-23 SoCon Freshman of the Year, while Isaacson and Elizabeth Lohbauer, a sophomore from Venice, Florida, made the All-SoCon team.

golfer chipping
golfers celebrating
golfer eyeing shot on green

In the SoCon Championship at Moss Creek Golf Club in Hilton Head, South Carolina, the golfers braced hard and fast greens, South Carolina heat and salt marsh alligators crossing the fairway. Having the support of family actively following the course made the nerves of the tournament soften and the great shots even sweeter for the five Catamounts competing in the tournament.

“Having my mom there for the tournament meant so much to me,” said Mapanao, whose mom flew in from Australia to watch her compete in her first SoCon Championship. “She hadn't seen me play in college before, so it was just really special to see her there, walking the course with me and seeing her interact with all the other families.”

golfer pulling cart
3 golfers smiling

Redshirt sophomore Kayleigh Baker, from St. Augustine, Florida, also followed the team and consistently provided support. "Our coach has been very supportive and understanding and helped us to set really attainable goals, but then also some goals that we didn't think we would reach that we ended up reaching, which was really fun to do,” she said.

The women’s golf team is made up players who value one another as student-athletes and as friends. The golfers agreed that the success of their season hinged on their synergy as a team.

“It's really great to be a part of such a dedicated and hard-working team every day at practice, everybody showing up, giving it their all. And it's really starting to show in our tournaments,” said Sadler Miller, a freshman from Clayton, Georgia who is also on the WCU women’s track team as a jumper.

8 women golfers standing

"It's really great to be a part of such a dedicated and hard-working team every day at practice, everybody showing up, giving it their all. And it's really starting to show in our tournaments"

- Sadler Miller

Sophomore Kaitlyn Wingnean, from Canada, is looking forward to continued success for her team. “I really, truly believe that we're going to keep growing and it's going to continue to get even better,” she said. “And I think that it's really exciting to be a part of a team that is going to grow and do great things.”

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