CofC Athletics Communications
The College of Charleston men's and women's golf teams open their seasons Sunday by playing host to The Invitational at the Ocean Course and the Cougar Classic, respectively. Both teams are hosting challenging fields, but the Cougars expect to compete and play well.
The men's team will play the Invitational at the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island. The tournament includes 12th-ranked Florida, as well as tough opponents Houston and UAB.
Familiarity with the course, which recently hosted the PGA Championship, could give College of Charleston an advantage over its opponents.
"We have played the course two times a week for the past couple of weeks," said junior Alex Ellis. "So, we won't be as intimidated as teams that don't play the course as often."
Ellis is expected to be one of the Cougars' top scorers this season. He will draw on the experience gained from playing in the U.S. Amateur and U.S Open Sectional qualifying where he faced some of the world's top players.
"I only missed qualifying for the U.S. Open by a few strokes and it was definitely a learning experience," he said. "It is something that I have shared with the other guys on the team."
Ellis said the team expects to win against a field that is filled out by Akron, South Florida, USC Aiken, Mercer, Stephen F. Austin, Georgia Southern, Texas-Arlington, USC Upstate, Davidson, St. John's and Texas State.
Meanwhile, the women's team will host the Cougar Classic at Yeamans Hall Club in Hanahan, S.C., which features a field that includes the top-five finishers in last years' NCAA tournament and 10 of the top 15. With 13 teams ranked in Golfweek's final collegiate team poll from 2011-12, including No.2 Alabama, No.3 Southern Cal, defending Cougar Classic champion and No.4 LSU, No.6 North Carolina, No.7 Auburn, No.8 Duke and No.9 Vanderbilt, the field will provide a steep challenge for the Cougars to open the season.
Senior Vanessa Koechli said the team will be up for the test and capable of improving on last year's 16th-place finish at the Classic.
"We have a very good team this year," Koechli said. "We definitely have a chance to beat some very good teams if we play well."
Koechli wants to extend her success over the summer into her senior season. She competed in the U.S. Women's Open Sectional Qualifying, shooting 77-76 in two rounds, and advanced to the semifinals in match play at the women's Trans National Amateur golf tournament.
"To play against some of the best amateurs in the world and beat some them is a definite confidence booster," she said, "I will be using that throughout the season to help me play well."
The field also includes No.12 Georgia, No.13 Florida, No.15 Tennessee, No.18 South Carolina, No.21 Virginia and No.23 N.C. State. Unranked Charleston Southern, Furman, Maryland, Miami, Mississippi, Penn State, Central Florida, UNC Greensboro, Wake Forest and Wisconsin complete the field.