A new chapter in Kentucky women’s golf will begin Monday with the start of the 2018-19 season at the Minnesota Invitational, hosted by the University of Minnesota.
Having said goodbye to three pillars of the program with the departures of seniors Isabelle Johansson, Grace Rose and Ale Walker, the 2018-19 Wildcats have their sights set on building on their past success with a new mix of veterans and talented newcomers.
Play will begin Monday with 36 holes from the Prestwick Golf Club in Woodbury, Minnesota, followed by the final round of 18 Tuesday. The tournament will be the first of four fall events and the beginning of what the Wildcats hope will be a banner season.
UK has made NCAA regionals in six of Golda Borst’s eight seasons at the helm. Although the program has lost three players who were instrumental in that success, Borst feels confident in the rising veterans she has and the injection of young talent.
“It’s strange to think that we are about to kick off the 2018-19 season this weekend but here we are,” Borst said. “This summer went by really fast and we are very excited to be heading back to Minnesota for our first event of the fall.
“We have an experienced group with us overall and we also have a couple of freshmen in the lineup that are ready to make an immediate impact for Kentucky. I look forward to seeing how the chemistry in this group will be and how that translates on the golf course.”
It all gets started Monday at 8:40 a.m. ET off tees 1 and 10. The second round will immediately follow the first round on Monday, with the final 18 holes set to start Tuesday at 10:15 a.m. ET with a shotgun start.
Live scoring will be available at GolfStat.com.
It will be Kentucky’s third appearance in the last four seasons at the Minnesota Invitational, although the first one at the Prestwick Golf Club. The tournament was previously held at the Minikahda Club.
The Prestwick Golf Club will be playing at 6,479 yards, a par 72. With large undulating greens and strategically placed groves of mature trees, the course was recently named Course of the Year by the Midwest Golf Course Owners Association.
“We have a busy fall ahead of us with back-to-back events this coming week and then we start to prep for our home tournament, the Bettie Lou Evans Invitational,” Borst said. “Our schedule is very well balanced this fall and I believe it gives our players the opportunity to compete against the best teams in the country while also having some time in between the last two events to catch their breath and be well prepared for each of them.
“We have a competitive team and I think we will see a lot of different players in our lineup each week. We are deeper than we have been in the past and I think this will help us be more competitive when we are on the road.”
Although it was at a different course, UK has experienced success at the Minnesota Invitational. At the last appearance in the tournament, in 2016, Johansson tied for first place with a masterful final-round comeback. The Wildcats placed sixth that season.
This year’s field features 15 teams, six of which made last season’s NCAA regionals round. The full field consists of UK, host Minnesota, East Carolina, Kansas, Middle Tennessee State, Missouri, North Texas, Notre Dame, Oklahoma, Rutgers, San Francisco, San Jose State, South Dakota State and Virginia Tech.
Seniors Leonie Bettel and Claire Carlin, along with junior Sarah Shipley, headline the returning nucleus and will all be in the lineup this week. Freshman Ryan Bender and Casey Ott will make their collegiate debuts, while junior Josephine Chang will compete as an individual only.
Bettel, who transferred from NC State, made an immediate impact in her first season at UK in 2017-18 by tying for the team lead in stroke average (74.8) while leading UK in top-10 finishes (two) and top-20 finishes (four). She appeared in every event as a junior and had a busy and successful summer, including competing for the Austria National Team in a number of events and winning the Austrian Ladies Open.
Kentucky’s other senior, Carlin, was named team captain, continuing her rise from freshman walk-on to team leader. She experience career bests in virtually every major statistical category as a junior and built on that momentum this summer with a championship at the Marion Miley Invitational in Lexington.
Shipley was Kentucky’s best golfer late in the 2017-18 season. She enjoyed a breakout sophomore year, posting career bests in stroke average (75.3), 18-hole low (68), 54-hole low (219) and top-20 finishes (two). Her 75.0 stroke average in the spring was tops on the team, which included a 13th-place showing at the SEC Championship in Birmingham, Alabama. She won medalist honors in the stroke-play portion of the Michigan Women’s Amateur this summer.
Bender and Ott will make much-anticipated debuts after stellar high school careers. Both are considered the top talents out of their respective stats.
Bender won the 2017 Kentucky High School Athletic Association state championship while leading Sacred Heart Academy to team state titles in 2014, 2016 and 2017. The First Team Kentucky All-State selection in 2017 was a three-time Courier Journal Girls Golfer of the Year.
Ott is a two-time Wendy’s Arkansas Golfer of the Year and won the Arkansas Class 7A state championship in 2017 after rallying from a seven-shot deficit. She also led Conway High School to the 2016 Arkansas Class 7A state title and runner-up finishes in 2015 and 2017. She won junior championship honors at the Marion Miley this summer with a fourth-place overall finish.
Chang is looking for a bounce-back junior year. She appeared in 10 of the team’s 11 events as a freshman and finished second on the team with eight rounds of par or better. After some inconsistencies last season in four events, she appeared to find her swing again this summer with a third-place showing at the Marion Miley.