LEXINGTON, Ky. – The infusion of talent to the Kentucky women’s golf team has continued with another top-notch signing class.
The Wildcats have signed highly regarded high school stars Ryan Bender and Casey Ott during the fall signing period this week. Both signed national letters of intent with the University of Kentucky and will join the Wildcats for the 2018-19 season.
Bender and Ott are considered to be the top prospects out of their respective states.
“I am really excited about our recruiting class for next fall,” UK women’s golf head coach Golda Borst said. “I believe that Ryan and Casey will have a strong impact on our program over the next several years and they will continue to add depth and experience to our roster. They are both really well-rounded individuals as well as strong competitors, and we are very happy that they chose to become Wildcats.”
Bender, from just down the road in Louisville, Kentucky, is the prized recruit of the Kentucky high school class of 2018. Currently a senior at Sacred Heart Academy, Bender has dominated the Kentucky girls junior tournaments for a while, including winning the Kentucky High School Athletic Association 2017 individual state championship.
“Ryan has had a very successful junior career here in the state of Kentucky and we are very proud to have the 2017 state champion be part of our team,” Borst said. “Ryan is a strong competitor and I believe that she will only continue to grow and mature as a player. I am so happy that Ryan chose to be a Wildcat and I know that she will do special things here at Kentucky.”
Bender has carried on Sacred Heart’s recent dominance in the state, leading the school to the 2014, 2016 and 2017 KHSAA team state titles. Along the way, she’s been crowned the Region 5 individual champion in 2015 and 2016, led the team to the Region 5 championship four consecutive years (2014-17), and guided Sacred Heart to back-to-back undefeated seasons in 2016 and 2017 (34 consecutive team wins). She’s the first girl in Sacred Heart history to win both the team and individual state titles.
Twice she’s been named the Courier Journal Girls Golfer of the Year, in 2016 and 2017. Bender was tabbed to the All-State First Team in 2017 and is a four-time All-Region 2 First Team selection and a two-time Region 5 Player of the Year pick.
Bender has had a number of other top finishes in addition to her decorated high school career. She finished fifth at the Kentucky Junior Amateur, seventh at the Justin Thomas Junior Championship (an American Junior Golf Association event) and 12th at the AJGA City of London Championship.
Bender’s been brought up in golf with seven family members and relatives having played golf on the Division I level, including her mother, Leslie Bender (Vanderbilt), who coached her at Sacred Heart, and former UK women’s golfer Megan Moir (2009-13).
An honor-roll student in every semester at Sacred Heart, Bender picked the Wildcats over Western Kentucky, Xavier, Eastern Kentucky and IUPUI.
“The moment I visited Kentucky I felt at home,” Bender said. “I fell in love with the school, the coaches and the team dynamics. I couldn’t ask for a more supportive school and program that will help develop me as a student-athlete.”
Like Bender, Ott is considered the top talent from her state. The Conway, Arkansas, product has enjoyed a decorated junior career, including winning the Wendy’s Arkansas Golfer of the Year honors in both 2015 and 2016. In September, she won the Arkansas Class 7A state championship after rallying from a seven-shot deficit with a final-round 67.
“Casey has a very strong game and I can’t wait to see what she does in her four years at Kentucky,” Borst said. “She has competed at the highest of levels in junior golf and she will bring a great deal of experience to our team. I believe that Casey will have an immediate impact on our program and we are so happy that she chose to be a part of the Big Blue Nation.”
Ott will bring a winning pedigree to Kentucky. A consistent top finisher on the junior level, Ott won six Arkansas junior stroke and match-play titles, including winning the Arkansas State Golf Association Junior Girls Stroke Championship at just 12 years old. The four-time All-State selection out of Conway High School also placed second at three AJGA events and eight top-10 finishes, including six top-five showings in her last nine appearances. She’s also advanced in three U.S. Golf Association regional qualifiers to national events.
With Ott leading the way, Conway High School won the 2016 Arkansas Class 7A state championship and finished as state runner-up in 2015 and 2017.
Over the summer, Ott was a medalist at a USGA junior girls qualifier in St. Louis, she advanced to the U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Championship in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and she finished in the top five of three AJGA events.
Well-rounded off the golf course, Ott made the AJGA Scholastic Honor Roll and finished in the top two percent of her class. She was also a member of the National Honor Society.
“I chose Kentucky because of the amazing coaches, the people in the program and the great facilities,” Ott said.
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