In a year in which Western Carolina University commemorated its 125th anniversary of service to Western North Carolina and beyond, the WCU Athletics Hall of Fame also enjoyed a milestone of its own, celebrating its 25th induction class. The silver anniversary class comprises Western Carolina’s 2002-03 women’s golf team and former football player Leroy Holden ’67, who were enshrined in the Hall of Fame on the weekend of Nov. 14-15.
Under the direction of head coach Steve Lott, the 2002-03 women’s golf team was the first WCU women’s team in any sport to advance to an NCAA post-season tournament. The Catamounts ended the nine-year run of the Furman Lady Paladins, carding a Southern Conference record-low 54-hole score of 894 that still stands today. The squad won three team championships that season, including the home Great Smokies Intercollegiate, the John Kirk-Lady Panther Intercollegiate and the 2003 SoCon Women’s Golf Championship that resulted in the automatic berth in the NCAA post-season. Playing in the NCAA East Regional at the Salem Glen Country Club in Winston-Salem, the Catamounts finished 16th overall.
The 2002-03 roster featured back-to-back top 20 recruiting classes, and included 2010 individual Hall of Fame inductee Rebecca Twiner Hastings ’04; Danish-born Line Cordes; Sweden native Johanna Lundberg; and Hendersonville product Meredith Beck Merrill ’04. Freshmen on the 2002-03 squad were Brandy Andersen ’06, Ashley Hovda Kress ’06 and Jennifer Palmer ’05. Five of the golfers on that first championship team remain among Western Carolina’s top 20 in terms of career scoring average.
That season, Twiner Hastings became the first WCU women’s golfer to break the 70-scoring barrier with a three-under par 69 at the ECU Lady Pirate Intercollegiate. Andersen, who went on to garner All-Southern Conference accolades and SoCon Freshman of the Year plaudits, lowered the benchmark with a round of 66 at the Great Smokies Intercollegiate. Cordes and Twiner Hastings also were tabbed All-SoCon at the season’s end while Lott was honored as the Coach of the Year by his peers.
Overall, four individuals on the 2002-03 Catamount women’s golf team were named National Golf Coaches Association (NGCA) All-American Scholars – Andersen, Cordes, Hovda Kress and Lundberg. Andersen and Hovda Kress went on to be two of just three SoCon women’s golfers all-time to secure three or more SoCon Golfers of the Month awards.
Going into the Hall of Fame from the football program, Holden lettered four years at wide receiver for the Catamounts from 1963-66. He recorded 78 career receptions, including 10 receiving touchdowns and amassing 1,310 yards. His best season came in 1966 when he tallied 38 receptions for 656 yards and five scores. During his career, Holden was named the team’s player of the year four times and received three game balls for outstanding individual game performances.
Following his graduation, Holden embarked on a tremendous career in education, spending more than 40 years as a teacher, coach and high school athletics director. He joined the faculty at North Mecklenburg High in 1971 where he would serve as head coach for the baseball, softball and tennis teams, while also making his name as a basketball coach.
Named one of the top 100 coaches in North Carolina – and a four-time Mecklenburg County Coach of the Year – Holden compiled 464 career victories as a head basketball coach including a 30-1 season and state runner-up finish with his 1987 squad, which won 30 consecutive games before falling in the title contest. He was chosen conference coach of the year seven times between 1977 and 1994, and garnered Sportsman of the Year honors in 1999.
In 1985, Holden was promoted to athletics director at North Mecklenburg, where he continued his hall of fame career. He was named the 2001 Charlotte Observer Athletic Director of the Year and received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the N.C. Athletic Directors’ Association in 2008. He was inducted into the N.C. Athletic Director Hall of Fame in 2012. For his service to North Mecklenburg High, he was honored in 2012 with “The Legends of North Mecklenburg” award. In 2013, the basketball court was named “Leroy Holden Court,” and an annual basketball tournament coined “The Holden Classic” is held in his honor. Additionally, the Holden Cup is given each year to a football player who displays excellence in athletics and scholarship.
Including this year’s induction class, Western Carolina’s Athletics Hall of Fame has enshrined 112 individuals, five athletic teams, 11 Patron Award winners and two recipients recognized for career achievements since its establishment in 1990.