ASHEVILLE – UNC Asheville on Monday celebrated its annual “Our Turn to Play” program that emphasizes female athletes by announcing the addition of a sport.
A women’s golf team will be formed and begin play next year, with Breanne Hall, director of golf instruction at Mountain Air Country Club in Burnsville, as coach.
Asheville athletic director Janet Cone, who added women’s swimming two years ago, said financial and logistical support from groups like Mountain Air, The Cliffs and Country Club of Asheville makes it possible to add a sport to a program that ranks among the smallest in the country among Division I schools in annual budget ($5.7 million last year).
The Bulldogs will now offer nine sports for women and six for men.
“Based on months of study and with the strong financial support of our women’s golf committee and key partners such as The Cliffs, we determined that women’s golf would be a good fit for our athletic program,” Cone said.
At a luncheon at Kimmel Arena with about 500 in attendance, local golfing legend Ann Brandis was presented the Trailblazer Award for her work in the game and her volunteer efforts.
A member of the WNC Sports Hall of Fame, Brandis was Western North Carolina’s top amateur player for decades, winning 27 club championships, including 19 at CCA.
She also won three N.C. Women’s Amateur division titles.
“I’ve never considered myself a a pioneer or trailblazer,” Brandis said. “I’ve just always followed my passion for golf, and it has taken me to many wonderful places.”
Keynote speaker Brandi Jackson, a former player at Furman and on the LPGA Tour who now operates Brandi Jackson Golf — a mentoring and development service for female athletes — said her goal was to reach as many young girls as possible.
“I turned my playing career into a business of giving back and helping young females get through the recruiting process and get ready for college,” Jackson said.
“It’s great to see this kind of crowd come out to support women in athletics. It’s important to raise money and awareness because in sports, the women are always going to get overlooked to some degree.”
Hall said she was anxious to get started in her new job.
“I’m honored to be the first golf coach at (Asheville) and look forward to building a competitive and successful program,” she said.
“As a PGA professional and former collegiate golfer, it is very exciting to see the game of golf continue to grow and more opportunities become available for female student-athletes.”
Written by Keith Jarrett, firstname.lastname@example.org
Permission to reprint from Asheville Citizen-Times