The Kentucky women’s golf team completed a banner bounce-back fall season with a third-place finish at the Cardinal Cup on Tuesday.
Off to a completely different start from a season ago when UK was ravaged by injuries and a lack of depth, the Wildcats put a stamp on an incredible fall season with its second straight top-three finish. Kentucky recorded a final-day 298 – its first sub-300 round of the tournament but its seventh of the season – to finish at 37-over par for the tournament, ahead of top-50 teams like Illinois, East Carolina and tournament host Louisville.
Veterans Jordan Chael (3-over par; fourth place) and Isabelle Johansson (6-over par; tied for sixth) closed out solid fall seasons individually with top-10 finishes.
No. 7 Florida State ran away with the tournament on the final day at the U of L Golf Club in Simpsonville, Kentucky, and ended the week at 12-over par. Wisconsin’s Brooke Ferrell stuck her second shot on No. 18 within a foot for birdie to win the tournament by one stroke, at 2-under par.
“It was a good week overall for the team,” assistant coach Brian May said. “Back-to-back third-place finishes will take us into the offseason with a positive attitude, yet hungry to get better for the spring season. The girls showed some grit today and kept us in a good position in the field.”
With temperatures in the mid-40s to begin the day, the Wildcats fought off the chilly conditions with a barrage of birdies on the front nine to put some pressure on Florida State. Four different UK players recorded at least two birdies on the front nine, led by Chael and Johansson.
Chael opened with bogeys on hole Nos. 2 and 3, falling behind Ferrell by as many as seven shots after starting the day just three back. But the steady senior found a groove after the first three holes and parred four straight. That paved the way for three birdies in a four-hole stretch just before and after the turn to get within three of Farrell.
Ultimately the comeback wasn’t enough, but Chael ended Tuesday with a 1-over 73 and finished 3-over par overall. Her fourth-place finish marks the best in her two-year Kentucky career.
Johansson, meanwhile, shot a 72 for the second straight day to increase her team-leading rounds of even par or better this season to six in just 11 rounds played. The Sala, Sweden, native made a team-high four birdies Tuesday and finished in a tie for sixth place at 6-over par.
“Jordan and Bella were steady again and showed up for us today,” May said. “They have become great leaders for our team and will both be a big key for us this spring.”
Freshman Sarah Shipley made a final-round charge with a 74 Tuesday. She was 2-under par through the first six holes and ended the tournament in a tie for 21st. Her 13-over 229 was the best 54-hole score of her young career.
Junior Grace Rose started the day in the top 15 but fell back in the pack a bit with five bogeys on the back nine. Nonetheless, she still managed a top-30 finish in 29th place at 15-over par in her 2016-17 debut.
Freshman Josephine Chang, competing as an individual only, also tied for 29th with a score of 13-over part to give the Wildcats five players in the top 30. The field consisted of 93 players.
Sophomore Claire Carlin tied for 89th place at 34-over par.
Kentucky will now take a three-month break before returning for the all-important spring season. UK, which entered this week ranked No. 48 by Golfstat, appears to be in great shape for a sixth postseason appearance in the seven-year Golda Johansson Borst era, but that will ultimately be decided in the spring.
Perhaps the most encouraging sign for the Wildcats as they break for the winter is the number of weapons they have in their arsenal. Seemingly every tournament, someone different – whether it was a freshman or a veteran – made an impact.
Johansson was her normal steady self with top-20 finishes in all four fall tournaments, including the individual co-championship at the season-opening Minnesota Invitational. Chael led the team with three top-10 finishes, including a 65 in the final round of the Ron Moore Women’s Intercollegiate, the second-best score in school history (with records dating back to 1987).
Then there were standout performances from the injection of youth. Freshman Sarah Shipley won the individual bracket championship at the East & West Match Play Challenge. Another freshman, Josephine Chang, started her career with four straight rounds of even par or better.
Redshirt junior Ale Walker is back after a year-and-a-half injury hiatus. Rose played well in her debut this week.
All of it has resulted in top-six finishes in all four fall tournaments.
It appears the spring season can’t come soon enough for this bunch.
“We had a good fall overall, especially with what we saw in terms of the growth in all of our players,” May said. “We will get some good work in this offseason and hit the ground running in the spring with five more tough events leading us up to the Southeastern Conference Championship.”
For the latest on the Kentucky women’s golf team, follow the team on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, as well as on the web at UKathletics.com.
Associate Director of Media Relations