Golf witnessed exceptional talent and growth in the 1980s. Jack Nicklaus won the U.S. Open and the PGA Championship for the final time in 1980. In 1981, the PGA of America National Office Building opened in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, where it still exists today. In 1985, Kathy Whitworth set the current record for most Ladies Professional Golf Association career victories by claiming 88 titles.
Kentucky women’s golf did not fall short of the high standards exhibited by players in the decade.
A newly formed reunion committee established by UK Athletics pegged the 1986 and ‘88 Kentucky women’s golf teams as elite teams of the past for their postseason achievements. The 1986 team finished fifth at the NCAA Championships in 1986, the best tournament finish in program history. The 1988 team finished 10th in 1988 with a score of 1,200, still the best 72-hole score by a Kentucky team in NCAA Championships history.
The teams were one of six programs picked by the selection committee in its first year of existence.
Players of those teams were honored in an elite teams reunion in Lexington, Kentucky, last weekend. Nine former players attended the two-day celebration including Ann Brown, Noelle Daghe, Cathy Edelen, Pattie Hass-Redd, Margie Muzik, Jayne Pardus (Lohr), Amy Read, Kate Rogerson and Nita Shelton (Drinnon).
“It’s so great being back at the University of Kentucky,” Read said. “Really, it’s an honor that the university brought us back to Lexington for the wonderful reunion.”
The elite teams reunion kicked off Friday with a welcome reception and dinner at Malone’s Prime Events & Receptions for the players and their families. The former teammates exchanged memories from their time in college and reminisced over scrapbook photos of past tournaments.
“For us to get together from our previous years and our teams and see everybody again is really fun,” Daghe said. “I thank Bettie Lou (Evans) and the athletic department for inviting us and we’re very excited to be here and look forward to tomorrow’s activities. We are certainly enjoying telling stories, some of which we remember, some I think people made up – which that’s OK!”
On Saturday, the elite squad and their families filed on a UK shuttle, set to cruise through the heart of campus and down memory lane. The itinerary was chock-full of sightseeing UK’s finest. The first stop on the tour began at the Joe Craft Center where the men’s and women’s basketball teams practice, followed by a tour of the remodeled Center for Academic & Tutorial Services in Memorial Coliseum. The former Wildcats spent time in CATS themselves while they attended UK.
Next, the crew toured the athletic housing complex Woodlenn Glenn II. The new construction and individual living spaces impressed the former athletes. The iconic Kirwan Blanding towers stacking 23 stories high were new builds when the women arrived on campus in the 80s – now they are vacant and scheduled to be torn down.
On the shuttle ride through campus, the women shared stories about their time hanging out near the Kirwan Blanding complex, even throwing snowballs at each other and laughing. They agreed the best part about the housing complexes in their day was that students could rent mini-fridges for their dorm room.
Afterward, the women and their families toured Kroger Field and the newly constructed Joe Craft Football Training Facility before visiting the University Club of Kentucky Golf House at the University Club of Kentucky. Built in 2014, the practice facility includes a 5,100-sqaure foot indoor putting and chipping area, three separate hitting bays, a club repair area, two locker room, a team lounge and a conference room.
In 1986 and ‘88, the host golf course was not the University Club of Kentucky, rather Spring Valley Golf Club located off Sandersville Road in Lexington, Kentucky. The women shared stories of practicing golf shots on the driving range at the course. Train tracks ran along the far end of the driving range and the women recall amusing memories like attempting to hit the train every time one traveled past them.
“I’m so happy to be back,” Rogerson said. “It’s fun to come back to Lexington and see everybody and reminisce about the great times that we did have because you really don’t know that the college years are your best years.”
The final stop on the itinerary for Saturday was the UK men’s basketball game vs. Virginia Tech. The elite teams were recognized center court for their achievements while in the program.
“We certainly have had a good time here and we are very fortunate to have played college golf and we want to thank the athletic department and Bettie Lou for inviting us,” Read said.
Evans, former head coach of the 1986 and ‘88 teams and current director of golf operations, coached the Kentucky women’s golf program from 1979 to 2001. She holds a program record for the most season wins, capturing four wins in the 1990-91 season. Evans spent Friday evening celebrating with the women.
“We didn’t know how great a team we had and how great a coach we had and we did well,” Rogerson said. “Let me tell you something, it was the best experience in my entire life. I’m glad to be back.”
The reunion committee selected 14 teams across six programs to honor as elite teams of the past. Teams were selected for their various achievements including final records, conference championships and postseason finishes.
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.
GO CATS –
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