KNOXVILLE, Tenn. – Hoping to build off a promising start to the 2018-19 season, the Kentucky women’s golf team is already back in action this week at the 22nd annual Mercedes-Benz Collegiate Championship.
The Wildcats will play in their second tournament in just over a week’s time with an appearance at Cherokee Country Club in Knoxville, Tennessee, for the University of Tennessee’s annual tournament. It will mark the Wildcats’ third appearance in the last four years at the Mercedes-Benz Collegiate Championship.
Like last week, the Wildcats will play 36 holes on Monday and 18 on Tuesday. The remnants of Hurricane Florence are expected to pass through the area on Monday, but as of Sunday, teams are expected to tee off at 8:30 a.m. with a shotgun start. The second round will immediately follow.
Live scoring will be available at GolfStat.com.
“We are looking forward to competing again this coming week as we have a quick turnaround,” UK head coach Golda Borst said. “The team has been able to get some rest and we have also had some good practices during the last couple of days. Cherokee is a shorter course with more par 5s and par 3s so this was something that we focused more on to get us prepared.”
UK is coming off a strong start to the 2018-19 season. With new faces and new roles, the Wildcats placed fifth last week at the Minnesota Invitational at Prestwick Golf Club in Woodbury, Minnesota.
Senior Leonie Bettel, as expected, led Kentucky throughout the tournament with a 1-under-par, tied-for-sixth-place finish. All three of her rounds were at even par or better. Junior Sarah Shipley just missed on a top-20 showing with a score of 5-over par, junior Josephine Chang played her best golf since her freshman season, and freshmen Casey Ott and Ryan Bender looked like they were ready for the college stage with a pair of under-par rounds between the two.
All five will be in the lineup in Knoxville with senior Claire Carlin playing as an individual only.
“This lineup is well prepared and I think they learned a lot from last week, especially the freshmen,” Borst said. “We just want to stay focused on reaching our performance goals, and if we reach those then each round will lead to a great score.”
The entire team will actually be in action this week with sophomores Sarah Fite and Rikke Svejgård Nielsen playing as individuals in the Morehead State University Greenbrier Invitational, which will be held at Greenbrier Country Club in Lexington. That tournament will also follow a 36-18 Monday-Tuesday format.
The field in Tennessee will feature 17 teams, six of which made the NCAA regionals field a season ago. It’s annually one of the top fall tournaments on the collegiate golf schedule and appears to be so again with UK, host Tennessee, BYU, Coastal Carolina, Eastern Kentucky, East Tennessee State, Illinois, Iowa, Kent State, Maryland, Middle Tennessee State, Ole Miss, South Dakota State, UCF, UT-San Antonio, UNC-Charlotte and UT-Chattanooga all in attendance.
Cherokee Country Club will play as a par 71 with a yardage of 5,900 this week. Nestled on a bend in the Tennessee River with sweeping views of the Smoky Mountains, the golf course is a Donald Ross design completely restored by Ron Prichard in 2008.
This will mark UK’s 11th all-time appearance in the Mercedes-Benz Collegiate Championship, but it’s traditionally been a tough stop for the Wildcats with last season’s seventh-place finish serving as the Wildcats’ best finish to date. UK played well in the tournament last year with a 54-hole total of 865 (13-over par), Kentucky’s best score of the 2017-18 season.
Bettel largely led that charge with a score of 1-over par, including a final-day 65. The 65 was not only the best of her career, it was also the best round in the 21 years of the Mercedes-Benz Collegiate Championship. She’s back in the lineup in the one position playing some of the best golf of her career.
Shipley will be right behind her after tying for 22nd last week. Shipley posted rounds of 73-73-75 at the Minnesota Invitational and is coming off a strong summer. She tied for 40th at last season’s Mercedes-Benz Collegiate Championship with identical scores.
After a difficult sophomore season, Chang returned to her freshman form when she posted eight rounds of even par or better, second most on the team that year. The junior from Rancho Cucamonga, California, carded an even-par 72 in the opening round of the season and tied for 29th overall last week at 6-over par.
Ott and Bender backed up their high-school credentials with glimpses of their special potential at the Minnesota Invitational. Both went low in the second round last week, with Bender firing a 70 and Ott recording a 71. Bender’s 70 was the best score by a freshman since Isabelle Johansson’s 70 in the first round of the 2015 NCAA South Bend Regional.
Ott ended up tying for 40th with a score of 8-over par with Bender just behind her at 9-over par, tied for 42nd.
Carlin, a senior, tied for 43rd in last season’s tournament in Knoxville with a score of 9-over par.
Meanwhile, Svejgård will make her Kentucky debut at the MSU Greenbrier Invitational. Svejgård begins her UK career highly regarded after 11 recognized top-10 finishes in European tournaments. She didn’t begin playing golf until 2012 but has been a fast riser on the European golf stage.
Fite will appear in her fifth career tournament for the Wildcats at the MSU Greenbrier Invitational. She tied for sixth over the summer at the Marion Miley Invitational.
Greenbrier will play at 5,961 yards, a par 72.