University of Kentucky womens golf 2018
Courtesy UK Athletics

Aiming to finish strong on the final day of its fall season, the Kentucky women’s golf team bounced back from a tough start to the Trinity Forest Invitational with a final-round 299. Perhaps the most impressive uphill climb came from senior standout Leonie Bettel, who shot the lowest final round of the day – 3-under-par 69 – to notch yet another top-10 finish.

Bettel, who has shot par or better in nine of her 12 outings this fall – already the third most in single-season school history – finished in a tie for sixth with a 54-hole total of 219 (3-over par). After carding a 76 and 74 on the first day, Bettel’s surge up the leaderboard in the final round lifted her 19 spots, making her a perfect 4-for-4 when it comes to top-10 showings this fall.

She had entered this season with four total top-10 finishes.

“Leo come a really long way just in the growth I’ve seen from her in the last year and a half,” UK head coach Golda Borst said. “It’s tremendous. She keeps fighting and she keeps learning. It’s not an easy process for her and for us, but we just try to coach her the best we can, and she’s listening to us and she’s being coachable and she’s choosing to grow. For her to have this round today shows a really tremendous amount of growth, and we’re really proud of her.”

University of Kentucky womens golf 2018
Courtesy UK Athletics

After the most trying day of an otherwise successful fall season, the Wildcats on Tuesday looked more like the team that won the Bettie Lou Evans Invitational earlier in the month. UK shot a 299 (11-over par) in the final round, tied for the fourth-best score of the day in a field that featured five teams ranked in the GolfStat top 50, including two in the top 25.

Overall, Kentucky finished in 12th place with a score of 924 (60-over par), the Wildcats’ highest score of the season.

“I thought their fight today was really good,” Borst said. “That was something that we obviously talked about yesterday and that was something I wanted to see today. I wanted to see them more determined and I wanted to see them have more discipline. … We didn’t finish how we wanted to but we posted a better round today and we took some positives from today even though it was a tough tournament overall.”

This week’s appearance at the Trinity Forest Invitational was UK’s first. The tournament, which is in its third season, was held at Trinity Forest Golf Club (par 72, 6,233 yards), home of the PGA Tour’s AT&T Byron Nelson Championship.

The links-style course, coupled with consistently high winds, created challenges for Kentucky early, but the Wildcats managed to stabilize themselves on the final day.

Bettel’s fourth round in the 60s this season got off to a fast start. She birdied three of her first nine holes, sprinkled with a bogey in between, to get to 2-under par halfway through her round. She birdied No. 7 (she started on No. 14) to get back to 2-under par after a bogey on No. 6 and reached 3-under par with a birdie on No. 12.

With a 70.6 stroke average, Bettel is currently on pace for the best single-season scoring average in school history.

Outside of Bettel’s normal fantastic play, junior Josephine Chang added to the team score in all three rounds of the tournament. She fired rounds of 78, 77 and 77 to finish at 16-over par, placing 47th. 

Sophomore Rikke Svejgård Nielsen tied for 49th. Two of her three rounds went to the team score, including her final-round 75. She was a big part of Tuesday’s lower team score.

Junior Sarah Shipley and freshman Casey Ott tied for 60th with a three-round total of 25-over par. They mirrored each other in almost every round and each carded a 78 in the finale.

Tuesday’s round marked the end of the 2018 fall season for the Wildcats. Although the fall didn’t end the way the Wildcats hoped it would, it was still a successful start to the 2018-19 season after bidding farewell to three seniors who were the foundation of the program for the last few years.

With new faces and old ones stepping into new roles, Kentucky powered its way to a team championship at the Bettie Lou Evans Invitational, three individual titles (two by Bettel and one by Svejgård Nielsen), two top-five team finishes and a number of records.

If the season were to end today, this group’s 296.5 18-hole average would fall just a fraction off the school record of 296.13 set in 2013-14.

Kentucky will break for three months for the winter offseason before returning in the spring for a busy slate. UK’s first event of the spring will be Feb. 16-17 at the Reynolds Lake Oconee Collegiate Championship in Greensboro, Georgia. That tournament will begin a stretch of seven events over three months before NCAA postseason play begins.

“We’re going to have to play really, really hard this spring,” Borst said. “I told the girls, we’re going into the offseason but this is not the offseason for us. We’re going to have to work really hard and we’re going to have to play some good golf in the spring. Although we had a good fall, we definitely need to play better in the spring.”

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