Tournament opens Friday with 36 holes, 18 on Saturday
WCU to compete in strong field for a second-straight spring
Catamounts poised for seven-event spring schedule
Senior set WCU single-round, 54-hole school records
87 golfers from 16 different schools in competition in earliest scheduled event date
Eckberg returns to Cullowhee after two years as both the head men's and women's golf coach at NAIA-member, Cardinal Stritch University in Milwaukee, Wis. The first-ever coach at the small Wisconsin school, Eckberg was charged with creating and building both of the golf programs from the ground up.
During the inaugural season for the men's program in 2013-14, Eckberg led the Wolves to a second-place finish at the Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference (CCAC) Tournament, and an 18th-place overall showing at the NAIA Championship. During that first year, Stritch recorded team wins at the Spring Eagle Open and Iowa Intercollegiate Championship, posting nine, top 10 team finishes.
In the second year of the Eckberg-led program, the Wolves won four tournaments as a part of placing inside the top 10 in each of the team's 12 regular season events including winning the CCAC Men's Golf Championship. Cardinal Stritch went on to place 14th at the national NAIA Championship held in Daytona Beach, Fla.
Over the first two years of the program at Cardinal Stritch, three players garnered all-region plaudits with Justin Doeden earning two NAIA All-America honors in 2014-15.
During this tenure, Eckberg twice brought his Cardinal Stritch squad to Western North Carolina for WCU's home tournament, the Hummingbird Intercollegiate hosted at the Country Club of Sapphire Valley. After finishing 10th in the 10-team field in 2013 as a start-up program, Eckberg guided his squad to a fourth-place finish in the 12-team field at the weather-shortened 2014 Hummingbird Intercollegiate.
Prior to embarking on his coaching career at Cardinal Stritch, Eckberg played professionally out of Orlando, Fla., for six years. He competed on a variety of tours throughout the southeast, tallying five professional victories.
Originally from Walnut, Ill., Eckberg played two years for the Catamounts from 2002-04, twice earning the title of team captain, team most valuable player and Southern Conference All-Academic. All told, he led the Catamount men's golf squad in eight events during his two years in Cullowhee, posting four, top five finishes. Eckberg garnered the Southern Conference Student-Athlete of the Week honors after winning the 2003 Sea Trail Intercollegiate Tournament, firing a two-round score of two-under, 142, in becoming just the seventh player since 1984 to win an event for WCU.
Eckberg played two years of golf at Illinois Valley Community College before transferring to Western Carolina under then head coach Johnny Wike. He was named first team all-conference as a sophomore, recording a runner-up finish at the conference championship and a 19th-place result at the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA) Championship.