Perhaps it wasn’t the final result the Kentucky women’s golf team wanted to open the 2017-18 season, but the Wildcats began the fall at the Mercedes-Benz Collegiate Championship with two solid scoring days, showed improvement in every round and set a new record in the process.
Newcomer Leonie Bettel recorded the best round in the 21 years of the Mercedes-Benz Collegiate Championship with a final-round 65. The record helped the Wildcats to their best round at the Cherokee Country Club in Knoxville, Tennessee, firing a final-round 285 – just 1-over par – for a three-round total of 865 (13-over par).
UK finished in a tie for seventh place, just three shots behind a three-team logjam for fourth.
For the second day in a row, the Wildcats played consistent, competitive golf, with Bettel leading the charge on a career day. The junior transfer from NC State showed in her Kentucky debut why she could be such an important piece for the Wildcats in 2017-18. Her final-round 65 gave her a three-day total of 214 (1-over par), good enough to tie for 19th place.
“We came to Knoxville to win the tournament, and although we got better each day, it wasn’t good enough in this field,” UK head coach Golda Borst said. “We have a lot of positives to take from the last two days and we have learned a lot about where we are as a team. The good thing moving forward is that we are much better than this and now we need to build on what we have learned and move forward.”
The biggest positive of them all, of course, was Bettel’s final-round score. It was one stroke off a Kentucky school record, marked the lowest of her collegiate career and tied an all-time personal best for the Austria native.
“The highlight of today was Leo’s great round,” Borst said. “This course is one that she has struggled with in past rounds, and she finally was able to execute her game plan and go really low. I’m very proud of her and how she controlled her emotions and thoughts today.”
The same could be said about the entire team controlling its emotions this week and playing consistent golf. No Wildcat shot worse than a 76 in any round, and only four times did a UK player score a double bogey or worse over 324 total holes.
Bettel not only kept the big numbers off her scorecard Tuesday, she showed the ability to go low. Sitting at 1-under par on the day through her first nine holes, Bettel pulled off the remarkably rare feat of back-to-back eagles, both on par 5s. That got her to 5-under on the day, a number she wouldn’t rest on.
She recorded a birdie on the par-4 18th and a birdie on the par-3 second hole to get to 7-under par, putting the 18-hole school record in her sights. Bettel bogeyed the following hole, but she had a chance to tie the school record of 64 on her final hole, the par-3 sixth. She just missed an eight-foot birdie putt to make history.
Bettel’s 65 not only smashed her previous collegiate low of 68, it was also her fourth career top-20 finish. She had three of those last season as a sophomore at NC State.
Perhaps overshadowd by Bettel’s final-round charge but just as good over the last two days was Ale Walker. The redshirt senior finished just behind Bettel in a tie for 22nd place with a 3-over-par 216.
Walker recorded a 72 Tuesday with three birdies. Had it not been for an uncharacteristic triple bogey midway through her round, she would have finished below par on the day and inside the top 20.
Senior Isabelle Johansson was one of three Wildcats in the top 30. She was among the leaders on day one after back-to-back 71s but couldn’t sustain the momentum Tuesday and shot a 76. At 5-over par, Johansson tied for 29th.
Sophomore Sarah Shipley (75) and senior Grace Rose (73) rounded out the team scoring for the Wildcats on Tuesday. Shipley tied for 40th at 8-over par overall while Rose moved up the field on the final day with 16 pars and just two bogeys. She tied for 50th at 10-over par.
Junior Claire Carlin, playing as an individual, tied for 43rd with a three-round total of 222 (9-over par).
Illinois edged Kent State by a stroke to win the tournament at 12-under par. Wake Forest’s Emilia Migliaccio had such a big lead after the first round that she was able to hang on to the individual title at 9-under par with a an even-par final round
This weeks’ tournament was played at the Cherokee Country Club in Knoxville. Playing as a par 71 at 5,897 yards, the course kept all but two teams over par. Seven teams in the field finished the 2016-17 season in Golfstat’s top-50 rankings.
Kentucky will take a three-week break before hosting the Bettie Lou Evans Invitational, Oct. 6-8, at the University Club of Kentucky. It will mark the 28th edition of the Bettie Lou, previously known as the Wildcat Fall Invitational, but it will be the first time the tournament has been held since the Wildcats won it in 2011.
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