With senior Leonie Bettel looking like her old self, the Kentucky women’s golf team finds itself squarely in the mix at the Clover Cup after the first round at Longbow Golf Club.
Eager to prove that her last tournament, at the Gold Rush Invitational, was simply an off week – it was the first time this season she finished outside the top 20 in tournament play – Bettel returned to the form that won her two individual championships in the fall and is in the lead after the first 18 holes.
With Bettel leading the charge, the Wildcats are tied for second place heading into Saturday’s second round with a score of 10-over par. Bettel leads the 90-player field by a commanding four shots while Kentucky trails USC, the No. 1 team in the country, by just six shots.
Four teams are within eight shots of the lead, meaning it’s anyone’s tournament at this point, but UK has put itself in position with the top team in the land, which is all assistant coach Brian May, who is filling in for head coach Golda Borst this weekend, could ask for from his team.
“Heading into this event, our two main points of emphasis have been staying in the present moment and having an unwavering belief in what they are doing,” May said. “Both of those points were tested early in our round today. We were off to a rough start and the girls fought hard to keep their rounds from getting away from them.
“I was pleased with the positive body language and attitudes that I saw today from all of our girls. We left plenty of shots on the course and the girls are poised and determined to get back after it tomorrow in round two.”
The Clover Cup will resume Saturday at 11 a.m. ET off of holes 1 and 10. Live scoring will continue to be available at BirdieFire.com.
After a rare off week a couple of weeks ago, Bettel bounced back in a big way. She fired her third-best round of the season, a 5-under 67, for her 10th round of par or better this season.
Bettel really got it going on the final three holes of the front nine with three straight birdies to get to 4-under par. A couple of bogeys in the middle of her back nine reduced her lead to a couple of strokes, but she sunk a 20-foot putt on the par-5 16th hole to get back to 4-under, and then finished out with a birdie on No. 18.
She is in search of her third individual championship this season after winning back-to-back titles in the fall at the Mercedes-Benz Collegiate Championship and the Bettie Lou Evans Invitational. If she were to continue this type of play the rest of the weekend and win the Clover Cup, she would move just a tournament win shy of tying Kate Rogerson (1987-88) for the most tournament titles in single-season school history.
The senior from Austria is having one of the best seasons in school history. She already owns four top-10 finishes and five top-20 showings. Her 72.3 stroke average entering this weekend would be a single-season school record if the season ended today.
“I was excited to have our old Leo back today,” May said. “She has struggled to start the spring, but today she was focused and confident in herself, which shows up on the course.”
Freshman Casey Ott, who is coming off a carer-best and Southeastern Conference Women’s Freshman Golfer of the Week performance in her last tournament, showed no signs of letting up. Her spectacular spring start continued with a 4-over par 76 on Friday. She’s in a tie for 22nd place heading into Saturday along with sophomore Rikke Svejgard Nielsen and junior Josephine Chang.
Svejgård Nielsen worked her way past some early jitters to have a nice first round. After starting 3-over par through two holes, she played well the rest of the day with three birdies. Chang, competing as an individual this weekend, is off to a solid start as well. The junior was at 2-over par with three holes remaining but bogeyed two of the last three holes to fall to 4-over par.
Junior Sarah Shipley shot 7-over par in her opening round and currently sits tied for 47th place. Sophomore Sarah Fite, who is competing for the team score for the first time this season and second time in her career, got off to a tough start but settled down on the back nine and is currently at 10-over par, in a tie for 66th.
The Wildcats seem to enjoy the par-72, 6,184-yard Longbow Golf Club. UK has finished in the top five in each of the last two seasons, including a season-best third place a year ago. Bettel and Shipley tied for sixth and ninth place, respectively, a season ago, and Chang tied for 16th with her still-standing-career-best 54-hole score at the 2017 Clover Cup.
In addition to USC, there are three other top-25 teams in this week’s field, creating a prime opportunity for the Wildcats to move up in the Golfstat rankings and increase their NCAA Tournament chances. A total of 15 teams are in the field.
– GO CATS –
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