UK Women’s Golf Begins Postseason Play at SEC Championship
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – With its eyes set on this event since it was taken away last year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Kentucky women’s golf team begins postseason play this week at the Southeastern Conference Championship at the Greystone Golf & Country Club’s Legacy Course.
An eight event, seven-month regular season will give way to the annual conference tournament in Birmingham, Alabama. Always a special time of the season, this year’s league title will carry an extra sense of appreciation after the 2019-20 season was ended just a month before the conference championship.
That Kentucky team had big goals in the postseason after a breakthrough season, and with the bulk of that team back in 2020-21, the Wildcats have been preparing all season long for this event and the likely NCAA opportunity afterwards.
“We are so excited to be heading to Birmingham for the SEC Championship,” UK head coach Golda Borst said. “It’s been quite the road since last March and we are just so grateful to have the opportunity to compete this week. We’ve had a quick turnaround from the LSU tournament and I believe that that’s good for us. We took a lot of positives from last week and look forward to building on our momentum from the last few weeks.”
After an up-and-down ride for much of the season, UK enters this week coming off its best two performances of the season – largely against SEC competition.
UK placed third last month at the Liz Murphey Collegiate Classic and tied for sixth last week at the LSU Tiger Golf Classic. The Liz Murphey featured all 14 SEC teams and the LSU event included all but two.
The tournament will tee off Wednesday at 9 a.m. ET with the first of three rounds of stroke play, scheduled for Wednesday through Friday.
For the third consecutive season of the event, the tournament will feature match play. The top eight teams from the 54-hole, three-day stroke play will advance to the weekend. The quarterfinals and semifinals will take place Saturday with the championship match scheduled for Sunday. The format reflects the NCAA Championships format.
Live scoring will be available throughout the week at Golfstat.com.
UK will utilize the same lineup it has for most of the season with sophomore Jensen Castle, freshman Laney Frye, senior Rikke Svejgård Nielsen, and sophomores María Villanueva Aperribay and Marissa Wenzler. Borst has employed some combination of that lineup in five of the last six tournaments and all five Wildcats competing this week appeared in at least six of eight regular-season events.
Castle earned the nod at the No. 1 position after a consistent 2020-21 campaign. Finishing with the team’s second-best stroke average (73.9) a year after setting the school’s single-season stroke average (71.9) as a freshman, Castle has contributed to the team score in all 24 rounds this season. She has two top-20 finishes this and finished no worse than 33rd in 2020-21.
Frye leads the Wildcats in scoring average at 73.7 and also boasts the most top-10 showings with two, the most top-20 performances with three, and posted the best finish of any UK player this season when she tied for sixth at the season-opening Blessings Collegiate Invitational. She also leads the team with nine rounds of par or better.
No Wildcat is playing better right now than Svejgård Nielsen. The senior entered the season with high expectations as one of the most experienced and accomplished golfers on the roster but struggled for much of the 2020-21 campaign. But after failing to record a top-20 finish in the first six events of the season, Svejgård Nielsen has found a groove and placed among the top 20 in back-to-back tournaments. She tied for 16th last month at the Liz Murphey and followed up last week at the LSU Tiger Golf Classic with a 54-hole season-low score of 221 to tie for 20th.
Villanueva Aperribay is appearing in her seventh straight event for UK after transferring from Augusta. She has one top-20 finish to her name this season and has shot two of the top three rounds by a Wildcat in 2020-21, twice carding a 69.
Wenzler hasn’t put it all together this season but has the potential to be a big contributor this week. In her freshman season, last year, she recorded the third-best stroke average in school history and placed in the top 20 in three of six events.
Checking in at No. 35 heading into this week in the latest Golfstat rankings, Kentucky appears to be a lock for an at-large berth for NCAA Regionals for the seventh time in the 11-season Borst era (with 10 opportunities because of the cancellation of NCAA spring championships). But, with two nearby NCAA regional sites in Louisville, Kentucky, and Columbia, Ohio, a good showing this week could ensure the Wildcats stay close to home for NCAAs.
Annually one of the nation’s best conferences, this year’s SEC Championship features eight teams ranked in the latest Golfstat top 25 and 12 in the top 50. Because of COVID-19 safety protocols this season and a more regional- and conference-focused scheduling format, the Wildcats have played against league competition a ton and more than held their own.
The SEC Championship will return to the Greystone Golf & Country Club’s Legacy Course, a par 72 that plays at 6,253 yards. The Legacy Course is carved naturally from a visually dramatic landscape of placid lakes, meandering streams and the undulation of Alabama’s Appalachian foothills. Designed by world-famous architect Rees Jones, each hole is an inviting yet demanding contest. The Zoysia fairways and Bent Grass greens found at Legacy provide golfers with surfaces that are both challenging and rewarding.
Kentucky has finished as high as second in the SEC Championship but has never won it. The Wildcats’ highest finish in the Borst era is fifth. UK’s 885 in in the 2017 tournament was its best 54-hole score in the event’s history.
For the latest on the Kentucky women’s golf team, follow the team on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, as well as on the web at UKathletics.com.