GREENEVILLE, Tenn. --- The 2019-2020 women's golf season gets underway this week as Tusculum University makes the short trip to the Johnson City Country Club for the Mars Hill Invitational. The two-day, 36-hole tournament is being held this Monday and Tuesday. TU is the defending champions of this event which was played last year at Broadmoor Golf Links in Fletcher, North Carolina.
The Pioneers bring back four letter-winners from last year's squad which finished seventh at the South Atlantic Conference Championship.
Tusculum head coach Ross Cash, who is in his second year at the helm of the program, has added four newcomers to this year's roster, along with naming collegiate coaching veteran Rachel Ingram as an assistant coach and former TU All-SAC golfer Katie Tomassoni as a graduate assistant coach.
Sophomore Olivia Cunningham is part of the quartet of returners for the Black and Orange as she finished third on the team with her 78.1 scoring average, which was the 11th lowest in program history and the second lowest ever by a TU rookie. The Nashville, Tennessee product played in all 10 tournaments, finishing in the top-20 in five of those outings including four times in the top-10 and three in the top-five.
Cunningham finished runner-up at last year's MHU Invitational and tied for fourth place at the Bob Dibble Classic. She also finished eighth at the Agnes McAmis Memorial and placed 21st at the SAC Championship with 74-72=146.
Florida Atlantic transfer Jennifer Keim is expected to make an immediate impact for the Pioneers. Keim, a product of South Yarmouth, Massachusetts, will be playing in her first and only season at Tusculum. She competed the last three years with the NCAA Division I FAU Owls. Last year she carded a 78.91 stroke average and captured medalist honors at last month's Dibble Classic exhibition tournament at Graysburg Hills Golf Club.
Freshman Yen Xuan Ong of Malaysia brings an impressive golf resume with her as she makes her collegiate debut this season. She finished third at the Hainan Junior Golf Tour event and was the 2017 High School Female Champion in 2017. She finished runner-up in the U.S. Youth Gold in 2017 and 2018 and won the UUM Malaysian Junior Open this past spring with scores of 78-74-74=226.
Junior Mackenzie Butler has qualified for 12 tournaments in her collegiate career and returns for the Pioneers. She tallied a pair of top-12 finishes last year, placing 10th at the McAmis Memorial and 12th at the Bob Dibble Classic as she carded an 84.6 scoring average for the season.
Junior Meredith Barton (Brevard, N.C.) appeared in three tournaments last year and placed 18th at the Dibble Classic last fall. Sophomore Jacque Butler (Milan, Ohio) qualified for five events and tallied an 88.3 average which including a 19th place finish at the Dibble Classic and 24th at the McAmis Memorial.
Also joining the team this year is the junior tandem of Taylor Gransen and Bianca Findlay. Gransen, a native of Tempe, Arizona, comes to TU from Mesa Community College while Findlay earned Player of the Year honors at Southwestern Community College in Iowa. Findlay, a product of Melbourne, Australia, also garnered state and regional honors.
Following the Mars Hill Invitational, Tusculum will compete three more times this fall with trips to the King Invitational (Sep. 23-24), Myrtle Beach Intercollegiate (Sep. 30-Oct. 1) and Patsy Rendleman Invitational (Oct. 7-8).