One to-the-point word will be the focal point of every goal the Kentucky women’s golf team hopes to conquer during the 2017-18 season.
It seems so simple and obvious, but it’s the root of so many things the Wildcats hope to do this season: Compete with the best teams in the country. Compete with one another to make each better. Compete when adversity strikes. Compete to improve. Compete to win tournaments.
The first day and two rounds of the 2017-18 season Monday had the makings of that mentality at the Mercedes-Benz Collegiate Championship in Knoxville, Tennessee.
After opening with a 9-over-par 293 in the first round in the morning, the Wildcats responded with a 3-over 287 in the afternoon for a two-round total of 580 (12-over par). On a season-opening day that saw a little bit of everything – birdies, adversity, and team-wide consistency and contributions – UK finds itself right where it hopes to be in every tournament this season: in the mix.
Kentucky is in a tie for sixth heading into Tuesday’s final round, just seven shots behind third-place Maryland. All six Wildcats are in the top 52, including senior Isabelle Johansson, who, at even par, is in a tie for 15th place.
“There were a lot of positives to take from today’s first two rounds of the season,” UK head coach Golda Borst said. “I was happy with how strongly we finished round two today with four of the girls finishing with birdies. This helped us close the gap with some of the teams in front of us, and we will use that momentum to get off to a strong start tomorrow.
“As a whole, we need to be more aggressive from the start of our rounds. We have a lot left in the tank, and I believe this team will step up tomorrow and finish strong.”
Illinois and Kent State have separated themselves from the rest of the 15-team field and are tied at 8-under par. Wake Forest’s Emilia Migliaccio has done the same on the individual leaderboard with a four-shot cushion at 9-under par.
The final round will tee off Tuesday from the Cherokee Country Club at 9 a.m. ET. Live scoring will be available at GolfStat.com.
Johansson, as she did in 2016-17 when she paced the Wildcats with a team-high six top-20 finishes and the best stroke average in school history, led UK in Monday’s season opener. She was as consistent as ever with back-to-back 71s.
The senior from Sala Sweden, got off to a fast start Monday morning with three birdies in her first six holes to get in early contention. Johansson carded seven birdies overall and no score worse than a bogey. Although she’s nine shots out of the lead, she’s only five shots removed from second place.
Senior Ale Walker continued the positive momentum she built a few weeks ago when she qualified for stage II of LPGA Qualifying School and rank with it Monday. She opened with a 2-over par 74 and followed with a 1-under 70 in the afternoon and is tied for 23rd. Walker has taken particular advantage of the par 5s, where she’s 4-under par through two rounds.
Not far behind Walker is sophomore Sarah Shipley in a tie for 30th. Shipley shot back-to-back 73s Monday with five total birdies.
Junior Leonie Bettel, making her Wildcat debut, made an immediate impact with a 76 in the morning round and a 73 in the afternoon to count towards the Wildcats’ team total. She’s tied for 44th at 7-over par.
Senior Grace Rose is tied for 52nd after a pair of 75s. Junior Claire Carlin, competing as an individual, is tied for 44th with Bettel at 7-over par.
Perhaps the most encouraging sign of the round was the consistency across the board. No one shot worse than a 76 Monday and only once did a Wildcat carded worse than a bogey.
That same approach will bode well for Kentucky as it heads into Tuesday’s final round. In a field that features seven teams that finished the 2016-17 season in Golfstat’s top-50 rankings, UK looks poised for a solid finish.
Cherokee Country Club is playing as a par 71 this week with a yardage of 5,897 yards 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.
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
Men’s Basketball and Women’s Golf