Members of the men’s and women’s golf teams sure know how to make an entrance these days, as they are rolling into tournaments in customized his-and-hers vans manufactured by Mercedes-Benz. The upscale automotive acquisition was made possible by a fundraising effort spearheaded by Tony Zande ’76 and wife Lynne.
The nine-person vans feature plush leather interiors, captains chair seating with ample head and leg room, wireless Internet access with folding laptop tables, built-in DVD and CD players and a 26-inch television set, and wireless headsets. Each van is valued at $84,000.
“Tony and Lynne specifically wanted to do something to benefit the golf program through a lead gift of $120,000, combined with contributions from other supporters,” said Gorham Bradley ’04, Catamount Club director and former men’s golf coach. “These vans send the message that we are very excited about the program. They also are a resource to help recruit the best of the best to Western Carolina.”
Avid golfers, the Zandes said they wanted to set an example in hopes that current and former student-athletes and alumni might give back to their alma mater. “WCU had such a positive impact on my life. I had possibly the best four years of my life at Western,” Tony Zande said. “We’ve wanted to contribute to WCU in a way that would have a big impact. I had seen the Vanderbilt University van at our golf club and thought it looked spectacular. This not only gives our golf teams a positive image but also shows WCU in a positive light. Our golfers carry themselves well, dress well and now ride well.”
Mallory Hertzel, women’s golf coach, called the vans a major asset. “We don’t have a golf course within 30 minutes of campus, so having to drive to practice every day has been quite a hassle. This will simplify that process,” Hertzel said. “Also, we travel to 10 tournaments a year, anywhere from right here locally to eight hours away. Getting to travel more comfortably and having wireless Internet so my girls are able to do their homework on the road is really important because they take their school work very seriously.”
Carter Cheves, men’s golf coach, said the Catamount logo-emblazoned vehicles vans have proven quite an attraction at tournaments across the Southeast. “This is our locker room on wheels,” Cheves said. “This is home base for us. We can keep our stuff in it, and we can go at our own convenience. The guys have something to really hang their hat on. I think it will give them confidence when we go to tournaments, to step out of the van and feel ready to go.”
Sophomore golfer Jack Walsh agreed. “Having this van has been great,” said Walsh, from Lawrenceville, Ga. “Not only is it more functional for us, but it gives us a greater sense of pride in our team and our school.”