Golfers in Central Kentucky -- not to mention the entire state or most of the United States for that matter -- will have had a hard time playing for most of the past three months. The winter has been brutal across the country, and certainly in the Lexington, Ky., area.
For a college golf team, especially one in Kentucky, snow -- in addition to cold -- can seriously hinder success on the course. Without a place to put in the work needed to hone their games before the start of college golf's spring season -- which really begins in February -- golfers run into all sorts of challenges.
And up until this season Kentucky's golf teams have had to combat those challenges, but not anymore.
In recent months the Wildcats have begun using a new all-conditions practice facility. Thus, both the men's and women's teams have a place to put in year-round work for a sport that demands constant repetitions to be great.
"Twenty-six straight days of snow has been a little bit tough for our teams, but to their credit a few years back we won a SEC Championship in men's golf and we didn't have this facility, so it can be done," Athletics director Mitch Barnhart said at the UK Golf House's official opening. "But I think this gives us the added dimension that it gives us the chance to compete in the SEC. I think it gives us a chance in this league, being the northernmost school in the league in a sport that is sunshine-driven. It's really important for us to have an opportunity to have a facility like this.
"It gives our golf teams a home, where they can put their gear and work at it on a daily basis."
Players must constantly hone their games - even when the weather is bad -- and up until recently practicing in inclement weather was a challenge for the Wildcats, but the teams' new practice facility gives them state-of-the-art solutions to the problems posed by Mother Nature, which any golfer can relate to.
Included in the new facility, located at the University Club in Lexington, are multiple covered, heated outdoor hitting bays that open out to a driving range and feature mirrors and cameras for in-depth swing analysis, as well as a large indoor putting/chipping green that would be better described as a short-game paradise in addition to beautiful, yet cozy office, lounge and locker-room spaces.
Both Brian Craig, the men's team's head coach, and Golda Borst, the women's team's head coach have been pleased with the new facility in its early stages of use.
"Mitch is right I've been kind of harassing him about this for quite a few years now. When we recruit kids that aren't in the state of Kentucky, we don't tell them what the temperatures are in January and February up here," Craig joked. "Now we have a building we can provide that's really going to give them a chance to practice and train. You can see what some of our teams have been doing, both the women's and the men's, the last month in here.
"We've been doing some great work, really productive, and the women had a really good showing their first outing, which is not easy to do in February in Kentucky. Thank you to Mitch for putting this together because it would not have happened if he didn't support golf the way that he does in supporting these young men and women."
Both the Wildcats' men's and women's teams have gotten off to strong starts in 2014, and as Craig suggested, much of that success can be attributed to their ability to practice more parts of their games when conditions prevent them from actually getting on the course.
The UK men's team has turned in six top-five finishes in as many tournaments this season, including a runner-up result at the season-opening Mobile Bay Intercollegiate in mid-February and more recently a fourth-place performance at the Querencia Cabo Collegiate.
The UK women's team also had a strong 2014 opener, placing fourth at the UCF Intercollegiate, before turning in a top-15 at last weekend's Darius Rucker Intercollegiate against one of the nation's top fields.
The women's team also has an excitement around it, and not just from the new facility. The team is began the year ranked No. 17 in Golfweek's rankings after its best fall season in years, meaning the Wildcats take plenty of momentum into the rest of the campaign.
The new practice options certainly can't hurt the forward direction of both the men's and women's teams.
Borst certainly seems optimistic.
"It's really turned out fantastic better than Brian and I could have imagined," Borst said. "To have an opportunity to have this building is huge for us especially in the SEC, it's such a strong conference for both men's and women's teams. I really want to reiterate how important this is for the future success of our teams. I think you will see a difference in how we play throughout the spring here."
Under the leadership of Golda Borst, the Kentucky women's golf team is on the rise. The Wildcats are currently ranked No. 24 heading into this weekend's Darius Rucker Intercollegiate, where six of the nation's top-10 teams will compete.
Kentucky will play in the Darius Rucker Intercollegiate this weekend for the first time, another deep field for the Wildcats.
"They know this will be the most challenging field they'll play," said Borst, who is encouraging her team to stay patient.
Ultimately, Kentucky golf has its collective eyes on SEC powerhouse status. For Borst, who found Lexington, Ky., four years ago after a three-year assistant coaching stint at LSU and four years on the Tennessee roster, the SEC is in her blood. She was part of a 2006 Lady Vol team that came up one shot short of winning the SEC title.
"This is where I always wanted to coach," she said.
Last week in Sandestin, Fla., UK's Megan Moir (women's golf) and Chelsea Oswald (track and field/cross country) were recognized at the Southeastern Conference's Spring Meetings.The two videos below were shown before Moir accepted the SEC's Brad Davis SEC Female Community Service Leader of the Year and H. Boyd McWhorter Scholar-Athlete of the Year awards. Take a look.
Softball - For the fifth consecutive season the University of Kentucky softball team has received an at-large bid into the NCAA Tournament with the selection committee naming Kentucky as the No. 12 national seed and one of 16 regional host locations for the first time in program history. - This is the fifth NCAA Tournament appearance in school history for Kentucky, who made its first showing in the tournament in 2009. The Wildcats hosted a NCAA Super Regional in 2011, dropping a best-of-three set to highly ranked Cal. All-time, UK is 8-8 in the NCAA Tournament. All tournament appearances have come under head coach Rachel Lawson. UK is one of 23 schools nationally to advance to five straight NCAA Tournaments. - Kentucky has earned 38 wins this season - the second most in school history - against some of the best teams in the nation, posting a 13-11 record in SEC action. Before falling in the first round of the SEC Tournament last week, Lawson and Co., had a historic weekend in Tuscaloosa, Ala., taking two of three games from top-10 ranked and defending national champion Alabama. The wins in Tuscaloosa were the first in school history for UK and its first-ever series win against the Tide.
Men's tennis - Kentucky advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament for the fourth-straight season, a program first. UK collected wins over Western Michigan (4-0) and No. 41 Virginia Tech (4-1) to book its spot in Champaign, Ill. - Kentucky won the doubles point for the third straight match as the newly-formed tandem of Juan Pablo Murra and Anthony Rossi went 2-0 on the weekend with an 8-1 win on Friday and an 8-3 victory on Saturday afternoon. - Kentucky will take on the Duke Blue Devils, ranked No. 9 in the country, in the Sweet 16 on Thursday, May 16 at 8:00 p.m. ET. The match against the Blue Devils will be the Wildcats unprecedented 11th contest this season against teams that currently comprise the ITA top 10.
Track and field - Both the UK men's and women's teams finished seventh overall with 46 points each at the SEC Outdoor Championships. - The women's team earned its highest finish and point total since 2009 (sixth and 56th). - The Wildcat men's team had its highest finish and point total since 2011 (seventh and 54th). - Kentucky finished the 2013 SEC Championships with eight medals, two gold, three silver and three bronze. - Chelsea Oswald became the first ever Wildcat to win at both 5,000 and 10,000 meters at the same SEC Championships. - Andrew Evans, Raymond Dykstra and Matt Hillenbrand all earned silver medals in the discus, javelin and 1,500 meters respectively.
Baseball - The Kentucky baseball team completed a grueling stretch of 14 of 16 games against ranked foes with a three-game series sweep at the hands of No. 1 Vanderbilt. The Wildcats picked up a midweek win over Wright State, before falling in the three-game set at the hands of the record-breaking Dores. - The Wildcats picked up a 4-1 midweek win over Wright State on Tuesday behind a strong start from senior Jerad Grundy, in his midweek debut, and a three-hit game from freshman Kyle Barrett. - UK has been led at the plate by Barrett, who owns a .351 mark with four doubles, one triple, 14 RBI and four steals. - On the mound, UK has used the weekend rotation of Reed (2-7, 3.81 ERA), freshman righthander Kyle Cody (3-3, 4.82 ERA) and Littrell (5-5, 3.92 ERA) for two consecutive weeks. Grundy (6-5, 5.02 ERA) has also made 12 starts with 71.2 innings and 58 strikeouts.
Women's golf - The women's golf team wrapped up its season at the NCAA East Regional last week at the Auburn University Club, May 9-11. UK finished in 12th place in the 24-team regional, shooting 33-over-par for the tournament. - With the top-eight teams from the regional advancing to the NCAA Championships, the Wildcats' 12th place finish concluded their season but was their highest finish at the regionals in head coach Golda Borst's three-year tenure. Cylia Damerau, Sarah Harris and Betsie Johnson all tied for 60th at 9-over-par. - Kentucky broke the single-season record with a team stroke average of 301.1, shattering the previous school-record of 304.73 set last season. - Senior Ashleigh Albrecht wrapped up her career as one of the most decorative women's golfers in UK history. Her season stroke average of 75.07 was the lowest all-time at Kentucky, surpassing Mallory Blackwelder's mark of 75.34 set during the 2007-08 campaign. She also tied her own record with eight par or better rounds in 2012-13 and finished her career with the most par or better rounds in school history with 26.
Tuesday, May 14 Baseball hosts Indiana - 6:30 p.m.
Thursday, May 16 Baseball at Missouri - 7:00 p.m. Men's tennis vs. Duke - 8:00 p.m. (Champaign, Ill.) Men's golf at NCAA Regionals (Fayetteville, Ark.)
Friday, May 17 Baseball at Missouri - 7:00 p.m. Softball hosts Marshall - 7:30 p.m. (NCAA Tournament) Men's tennis vs. UCLA/Vanderbilt (Champaign, Ill.) Men's golf at NCAA Regionals (Fayetteville, Ark.)
Saturday, May 18 Softball hosts Notre Dame/Michigan - 1:00 p.m. (NCAA Tournament) Baseball at Missouri - 7:00 p.m. Softball if necessary game - 3:30 p.m. (NCAA Tournament) Softball if necessary game - 6:00 p.m. (NCAA Tournament) Men's golf at NCAA Regionals (Fayetteville, Ark.) Men's tennis at NCAA Tournament (Champaign, Ill.)
Sunday, May 19 Softball championship series - 1:00 p.m. (NCAA Tournament) Softball if necessary game - 3:30 p.m. (NCAA Tournament) Men's tennis at NCAA Tournament (Champaign, Ill.)
Freshman Sarah Harris looks to build on her second-place finish at SECs in the NCAA Regional at Auburn. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics)
Fresh off the best finish in the Southeastern Conference Tournament in 20 years, the Kentucky women's golf team is headed to Auburn, Ala., for NCAA Regionals in pursuit of more history and a trip to nationals.
As the Wildcats have done all season long, they will have to fight through adversity to realize that goal.
The Wildcats had a great week of preparation heading into the SEC Tournament two weeks ago with fantastic weather in the Lexington area and plenty of time out on the golf course. The preparation and a renewed focus helped vault UK into a top-five finish at SECs and put the Cats in contention for a strong seed in the NCAAs.
With confidence soaring for the Wildcats heading to Auburn, Mother Nature has done her best to rain on the parade - literally.
The Kentucky spring weather has been unkind to leisurely casual golfers and collegiate golfers alike this spring season, whether it's been a chill in the air or moisture on the ground. With no end in sight to the less-than-ideal golf conditions, head coach Golda Borst went into improvisational mode to prepare for this weekend.
The Wildcats took to the range and visualized the Auburn golf course to the best of their abilities. With all of the distances and dimensions at their disposal, they created a virtual course and played it at the range.
Players estimated their shots, used a range finder, aimed at the "green" or flag or a different target on the range. They would imagine their shot, execute and estimate whether or not they were close to their target.
"The girls did a really good job and got really into it and tried to make the best of the situation," said Borst. "For me, that's what it's about .We're going to have tough conditions, and this time it was extra tough."
Preparing in that fashion will at least give the older players a refresher on a course that the seniors have already played in their career, but this week's preparation is particularly important for the freshmen who have never seen it.
"The more mentally you can prepare, the better because when you get there, it's like, 'Oh, I've played this before. I kind of had an idea of what this looks like,' " said Borst. "Then I would walk around and help them remember some of the holes."
And having the experience of Auburn's University Club golf course should not only give the upperclassmen an edge, but they will also be able to pass along their wisdom - as they've done all season - to the freshmen.
"Three of the girls have been there. They know what's coming," said Borst. "They know emotionally how to prepare for it. They can talk to the two freshmen about it and kind of give them an idea about the golf course.
"I think the golf course sets up for us well and I think they'll do a good job. We just have to make sure that we stay focused on us and play within ourselves and play the game we know that we can play, and we'll do a good job."
Kentucky's preparations aren't limited to the Bluegrass, however, as Borst got her team ready to go a couple of days earlier to head to Atlanta, Ga., and get an extra round in before heading to Auburn for the NCAA Tournament as she continues to try and find any additional edge she can provide her players.
Despite the distractions of early travel and a rainy day - or week - Kentucky has remained cool, calm and collected, much like the Cats were heading into the SEC Tournament.
"They've been very calm and very focused," said Borst. "They know what they need to do and they're ready to do it. I must say, there's a different mindset this year than there was the last two years."
Freshman Sarah Harris, who recently took second place individually at the SEC Tournament, might be able to continue to carry the Wildcats as they look for a top-eight finish to advance to nationals, but she's going to need some help.
While junior Liz Breed has been very consistent this season, Kentucky will need seniors Betsie Johnson and Ashleigh Albrecht to continue to battle the emotions of their senior season and put up a solid tournament. Albrecht carried the Cats for much of last year much like Harris is doing now late in the season, but she's yet to find her consistent stroke.
There would be no better time and place for Albrecht to rediscover it than this weekend at Auburn.
"It would mean a lot to me as a coach," said Borst. "Not necessarily because it would help us advance, but it would help her with her game as she moves on to be a professional golfer because it would help her confidence. I think that would be really big to know that she has it in her, and she does, it's just the more rounds you can get around par and under par, it will validate her."
At the end of the day, the Wildcats will need to bridle their emotions for this event and remaining as relaxed as possible, knowing that they don't have to do anything special to achieve a top-eight score.
Though Borst is confident that the Auburn course sets up well for her team, it's all going to come down to the short game, which has been the story of the season.
"You have to make the big putts on every single day because a lot of times it comes down to the last hole on the last day, missing it or making it by one shot," said Borst. "We worked a ton on putting here in the last week and a half because I know how important it is. As you prepare, I want the girls to know that they gave it their all and they are fully prepared for whatever comes their way this week."
It hasn't been perfect, but Borst has done her part to get her team ready for just that. If she has it her way, which has been tough for her to come by in her never-ending battle with Mother Nature, Kentucky will be standing in the sunshine having clinched a trip to nationals.
The University of Kentucky celebrated its 146th May Commencement on Sunday. (photo by Mark Cornelison)
During the University of Kentucky's 146 May Commencement on Sunday, 49 UK student-athletes received degrees. Forty-seven earned undergraduate diplomas and two received graduate degrees.
(Note: Includes student-athletes who received degrees after their completing eligibility.)
Baseball Thomas McCarthy Zac Zellers (Will complete coursework this summer)
Football Aaron Boyd La'Rod King Quentin McCord Craig McIntosh Kevin Mitchell Matt Smith Taylor Wyndham (Note: 2012 seniors Mikie Benton, Gabe Correll, Gene McCaskill, Morgan Newton, Cartier Rice, Collins Ukwu, Steven Duff and Sam Simpson graduated previously.)
Gymnastics Caitlyn Ciokajlo Storey Morris Whitney Rose
Men's basketball Twany Beckham Marquis Estill Jon Hood Jarrod Polson (Graduated in three years) (Note: Jamal Mashburn also received an honorary doctorate of humanities.)
Men's golf Joseph Barr
Men's soccer Pedro Andreoni Gabriel Conelian Barry Rice
Men's swimming and diving Jon Bullock Jon Keltner Ben Russell
Rifle Heather Greathouse
Softball Chanda Bell Kara Dill (Graduate degree in exercise science) Alice O'Brien Erika Silence
Track and field Katy Achtien Keith Hayes Ben Mason (Will complete coursework this summer) Chelsea Oswald Shiara Robinson Josh Nadzam (Masters of social work) Danielle Sampley Rashaud Scott Samantha Stenzel Hiruni Wijayaratne Megan Wright
Volleyball No graduates this weekend, but seniors Ashley Frazier and Christine Hartmann had already graduated.
UK freshman Sarah Harris helped the Wildcats achieve their best SEC Championships finish in 20 years with a second-place 9-over-par last weekend. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics)
On her final hole of the Southeastern Conference Championships, freshman Kentucky golfer Sarah Harris walked off the green in disgust.
She bogeyed. She was mad.
That was not the way she intended to end her round or the tournament for that matter. Harris also had no idea what that bogey had cost her team.
As Harris walked over to head coach Golda Borst with a look of disappointment, Borst had to alert her unsuspecting and somewhat oblivious freshman about what she had just done.
"Sarah, do you know you just did?" Borst asked.
"No," Harris responded, aware of nothing other than the fact she had just ended her round on a sour note.
"You might have had the highest (SEC Championships) finish out of any Kentucky women's golfer," Borst informed her unassuming freshman. "Do you know how big this?"
That quickly changed Harris' perspective on her tournament.
With her final score of 9-over-par, Harris had earned her best collegiate finish with a second place at the SEC Championships as she led the Kentucky women's golf team to its best finish at SECs in 20 years: a tie for fifth place with Mississippi State at 58-over par.
So why then did Harris have no idea where she was on the leaderboard? Well, it goes back to before Kentucky competed at Ole Miss and had its best showing of the spring with a fifth-place finish at the M&F Bank Rebel Intercollegiate.
The Wildcats struggling for much of the spring, fighting weather conditions back home,
having trouble translating the work they put in into tournament play and
frankly unable to get out of their own way.
The Wildcats faced a great deal of adversity. They learned from it. They are better for it.
"We had to go through those tough times in the fall and then the spring to figure out that we're stronger," said Borst. "We've gotten mentally tougher. I saw that this tournament. They did better with their toughness."
Before the Cats went to Ole Miss, they gathered around and decided something had to change. What they were doing wasn't up to their own standards. So each of them - without the influence of the coaching staff - decided that instead of playing for one another or playing for their coaches, family, friends, or any other outside distractions, that they would play for themselves.
"When we all sat down, we decided we were letting the outside things distract us," said Harris. "We all sat down and took it back to, 'I need to be playing for me.' I need to go out there and figure out what I need to do to play good golf. When I'm playing well, it contributes to the team. When we all do what we need to play well, it all adds up."
It's not selfish, but it's a fact. Golf wasn't designed to be a team sport, even though Kentucky might be one of the most tight-knit collegiate teams on the circuit. Kentucky actually might have been too close of a team and put too much pressure on itself to perform for one another.
So they separated, at least mentally, from that idea and started focusing on their individual selves and doing their own part, trusting that everyone would do the same and stay focused on the moment.
Harris on her final round, on her final hole, on her final shot, was focused on the moment. She didn't even know how to process what she had just accomplished.
That's also Harris' M.O. She's humble and modest. She doesn't expect things. She goes out with an open mind and plays with what the day gives her.
When Borst asked her freshman what her goal was for the SEC Championships, Harris simply hoped to place in the top half of the field. And then she finished second.
She simply didn't know how good she really was. She probably has a better idea of that now.
"I expected her to be a solid player for me this year. I really did," said Borst. "It's one of those where you knew she'd be in the lineup, but she didn't know because she doesn't know how good she is. I think she slowly but surely is realizing that."
Harris is quick to give credit to the turnaround of her season and the season as a whole to their four seniors who have done much of the grunt work while Harris and fellow freshman Cylia Damerau are simply expected to pick up where the seniors have left off. Where most seniors wouldn't necessarily be receptive to freshmen coming in and contributing immediately, this senior class has welcomed the youngsters with open arms.
Because of that, UK is peaking at just the right time as the Wildcats await word on where they will head for NCAA Regionals during the Division I NCAA Women's Golf Selection Show on Monday, April 29.
"The upperclassmen are such a wealth of information," said Harris. "Whenever we have questions or need help with something, they're always there to lend a hand. They're so encouraging and it's just great.
"I hear a lot of stories on other teams where they say, 'Our seniors, they hate us,' or 'They hope we don't play.' They are always cheering us on and it's really fun."
Each senior brings something different to the table. Ashleigh Albrecht has been the most consistent player over the last few years and brings great veteran leadership on the course along with Betsie Johnson, while Megan Moir and Heather Lott and lone junior Liz Breed bring gobs of perspective about being good teammates, where this program has been, and where they want them to take it next.
"Each of them has taught me different things, but I've really learned about just enjoying the game," said Harris. "Not necessarily always taking it so seriously, but just enjoying being out there. I've really just learned a lot from them on how to enjoy my time as a student-athlete. They've been so encouraging."
The seniors have also taught the freshman about how Kentucky golfers are to handle themselves while on the golf course, which coincides with the seniors' message to Harris to enjoy the game and have fun. Borst and assistant coach Lucy Nunn have preached to their players since they arrived three years ago that there team would always carry themselves with class and play with a good attitude.
That message not only helps to represent the university in a positive light, but it also actually improves performance. And others have noticed.
On the second day of play at the SEC Championships - a day that's been notoriously troublesome for the Cats over the course of the season - Albrecht had just flown the green on a par three with a tough up and down in her future. Without hesitation, Albrecht stuck her club in her bag, walked with purpose to her ball, and took care of business and parred the hole.
That prompted Mississippi State head coach Ginger Brown-Lemm to walk over to Nunn.
"Lucy, your girls have such a great attitude. What do you do with them?" asked Brown-Lemm.
"We really emphasize playing with a great attitude," Nunn answered.
"Lucy, that saves shots," Brown-Lemm said.
That emphatic message is finally paying dividends.
"That's something that we've preached all year, because if we're going to do anything, we're going to do it with a good attitude," said Borst. "I don't like to see anything else on the golf course. Overall, I'm very happy and pleased and it shows we're going in the right direction."
Now, it's the freshmen helping those seniors advance and reach new heights as UK earned its best finish since before Harris and Damerau were even born. That's what these players set out to do when they decided to come to Kentucky. Now, the pieces are coming together and the entire team is making sure that the Wildcats end the 2013 season on a high note to send off their seniors the right way.
"When I made my decision to come to Kentucky, that's one of the things that drew me here," said Harris. "I want to be a part of that. I want to be a part of rebuilding a program. We have such a great program, but we want to get back to where we were.
"Just the pride (the seniors) have in the program and the confidence they have in us. When we go to a tournament, it's always, 'We are Kentucky women's golf. We're here to play well.' It's really cool to watch."
Baseball - Kentucky continued a grueling stretch with 14-of-16 ranked opponents with a four-game week, with No. 8 Louisville earning a midweek win and No. 14 South Carolina sweeping the Wildcats in Columbia over the weekend. - Sophomore two-way standout A.J. Reed smashed his team-high 10th homer of the year on Saturday, as a part of a 4-12 weekend at the plate. - Junior lefty Corey Litrell tossed his seventh quality start of the year and 21st of his illustrious career on Sunday, allowing three earned runs in 7.2 innings. - Freshman catcher George Fettes belted his first homer of his career on Saturday afternoon over the left-field wall that helped UK rally to take the lead before falling to the Gamecocks.
Softball - The Kentucky softball team is coming off a 3-2 week where it swept a doubleheader at Middle Tennessee State before earning a win at Arkansas in a three-game set. UK defeated MTSU 7-4 in game one before a 13-1 triumph in game two. - Home runs led UK in game two over MTSU as the Wildcats blasted five home runs to break the school record for most homers in a game. Sophomore catcher Griffin Joiner started the home run assault, blasting a leadoff shot in the second inning before junior infielder Krystal Smith hit a two-run homer later that inning. Junior pitcher/infielder Lauren Cumbess hit a two-run home run in the third inning before freshman infielder Ansley Smith hit consecutive two-run round trippers in the third and fourth innings to tie and break the school record. In all, the Wildcats posted 15 hits in the game, including three doubles and 12 RBI. - Cumbess has been the offensive leader for UK, hitting safely in 13 of her last 14 games with an extra-base hit in nine of those 14 games. For the season, Cumbess leads the team with a .359 (56-for-156) average, including 12 doubles, 11 homers and 37 RBI. Freshman Kelsey Nunley is 20-6 on the year in the circle with a 2.08 ERA. Cumbess is second on the team with a 3.52 ERA and a 10-5 record.
Men's tennis - Kentucky advanced to the quarterfinals of the 2013 SEC Tournament, knocking off No. 9 Mississippi State in the second round, 4-2. - The Wildcats bowed out in the quarterfinals after dropping a tight match with number one overall seed, and No. 2 Georgia, 4-3. Anthony Rossi defeated No. 6 KU Singh 7-6, 6-3 in his second win of the year over a top-10 player. - The NCAA Selection Show is Tuesday, April 30 at 5:00 p.m. ET on NCAAsports.com. Women's tennis - The Kentucky women's tennis team lost 4-2 in its opening round match vs. LSU at the Southeastern Conference Tournament. - Junior Caitlin McGraw and freshman Nadia Ravita won the No. 1 doubles match 8-0. - Ranked 22nd, Ravita recorded another singles win, defeating Kaitlin Burns 7-5, 6-3 in the No. 1 singles slot. - McGraw also recorded a singles win for UK, taking court four 7-5, 7-6 (3).
Women's golf - The women's golf team recorded its best finish at the SEC Championships in 20 years as it placed tied for fifth, shooting 58-over-par for the tournament at the Greystone Golf and Country Club in Birmingham, Ala. - Freshman Sarah Harris was the highlight of the tournament for the Wildcats, finishing a career-best second place at 9-over-par for the event. Harris, who was tied for the individual lead after day one, was tied for fifth coming into Sunday before a 4-over-par, 76 catapulted her into second overall. The second place individual finish was also the highest this season for Kentucky. - Junior Liz Breed, who was nearly as impressive as Harris over the weekend, recorded a career-high finish tying for sixth overall at 11-over-par. The Waynesboro, Pa., native came into Sunday tied for fifth before falling just one slot after a 6-over-par, 78 final round.
Men's golf - The UK men's golf team finished in 13th place at the SEC Championships last weekend, shooting 50-over-par for the tournament at the Seaside Course in St. Simmons Island, Ga. - Junior Ben Stow was the high finisher for the Wildcats, placing tied for 12th at 5-over-par. The Salisbury, England native was even par through the first round before posting 2-over in round two and 3-over in the final 18.
Track and field - Kentucky opened the new UK Outdoor Track and Field Facility with the inaugural collegiate Heart of the Bluegrass Classic on Saturday. - UK won all but one of the 29 events the team entered at the inaugural collegiate Heart of the Bluegrass Classic on Saturday. - Cally Macumber and Michelle Canterna set the school records in their respective events. - Macumber's mile time of 4:37.75 also set the facility record. - Canterna cleared the new outdoor school record vault height at 3.87 meter /12'08.25". - Keith Hayes won all four of the events he entered, including two relays. - Rebecca Famurewa won three throws events, including a PR in the hammer throw.
Tuesday, April 23 Baseball at Western Kentucky - 7:00 p.m.
Wednesday, April 24 Softball hosts Louisville - 6:00 p.m.
Thursday, April 25 Track and field at Penn Relays - 10:00 a.m. (Philadelphia, Pa.) Baseball at Ole Miss - 7:30 p.m.
Friday, April 26 Track and field at Penn Relays - 9:00 a.m. (Philadelphia, Pa.) Track and field at Triton Invitational - 1:00 p.m. (San Diego, Calif.) Softball hosts Missouri - 5:00 p.m. Baseball at Ole Miss - 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, April 27 Track and field at Penn Relays - 12:55 p.m. (Philadelphia, Pa.) Track and field at Triton Invitational - 1:00 p.m. (San Diego, Calif.) Softball hosts Missouri- 1:00 p.m. Baseball at Ole Miss - 3:15 p.m. Track and field at Miami University RedHawk Invitational (Miami, Ohio)
Sunday, April 28 Softball hosts Missouri - 1:00 p.m. Track and field at Payton Jordan Invitational - 4:00 p.m. (Palo Alto, Calif.)
The women's golf team heads to Birmingham, Ala., this weekend for the SEC Championship. (Britney McIntosh, UK Athletics)
When Golda Borst took over the Kentucky women's golf program, the Wildcats were 77th in the country in the polls. Today, the Wildcats sit at 32nd.
Things have changed a lot since Borst took the job three seasons ago, and while she's striving to mold UK into a perennial Southeastern Conference contender, this team, in particular its four seniors (Ashleigh Albrecht, Betsie Johnson, Heather Lott and Megan Moir), have much to be proud of.
"We have a group of girls that are very proud of this program and how far we have come," said Borst. "When the freshmen came in, they made sure that they knew that and how far we'd come. They have been really clear in where we want to go."
On the flip side, Borst has brought in two talented freshmen with Cylia Damerau and Sarah Harris having earned spots in the lineup this spring. It hasn't always been smooth sailing as the youngsters learn the ropes and make their mistakes, but every day out on the course with the upperclassmen has contributed to their development.
Borst said it was very important for this crop of freshmen to have this season with the seniors to not only learn what life is like as a collegiate golfer at Kentucky, but what this program was all about to help steer them in the right direction.
The Wildcats, after an up-and-down start to the spring on the heels of a successful fall, appear to finally be hitting their stride, and just at the right time.
UK is riding the momentum of a fifth-place finish at Oxford, Miss., in the M&F Bank Rebel Intercollegiate in which Kentucky bested four other SEC squads. It's been a long time coming, but the tournament in Oxford provided the Cats with exactly what they needed headed into postseason play.
"I must say, the golf course there is pretty similar to what we play at home," said Borst. "It was pretty open off the tee. You still had to play good approach shots and have a good short game, but it was a really good course to get our confidence back up."
It wasn't just about playing better and fixing mechanical flaws. Kentucky had to change its mindset to get to this point. While the Cats wanted to do well for each other, the pressure of performing well for one another was proving to be just too much to deal with.
Things had to change.
"We had to do something different. What we were doing wasn't working," Borst said.
Instead of hoping things would get better, Borst made her team have a players-only meeting to talk about changes that needed to be made.
Borst challenged her team and said, "This is your team. You chose the University of Kentucky. How far do you want to take us?"
So the team sat down, talked and decided that instead of working on team goals, they would focus more on an individual approach and worry about themselves and know that in the end, their collective scores would afford the team greater success . Kentucky's finish in Oxford would suggest that the Wildcats are headed in the right direction. Now, they have their sights set on the SEC Championship this weekend with a goal to improve on their finishes in each of the last two seasons when they finished in 10th in 2011 and ninth in 2012.
"With the team that we have, I think a realistic goal is top seven," said Borst. "Looking at the team, looking at the stats, looking where they are and how we're doing, looking at the two freshmen that we have that are strong, I really think that's a realistic goal. Then, it's individually what do you need to do to prepare for this week?"
If Kentucky needs one area of improvement on the course, it's in the short game. The athletes have done a fine job of driving the ball and putting themselves in favorable situations, but they haven't been able to deliver with their wedges and putters in clutch situations for much of the spring.
"At the end of the day, you have to hit the ball closer and take advantage of the opportunities that you have," said Borst.
While the weather hasn't always cooperated this spring in Lexington for the Cats to get out and work on their short game, it's a mental block more than physical that's keeping UK from executing.
"When I took this job I strongly believed we had the facilities that we need to be the best team in the country," said Borst. "I don't think that the weather is that big of a deal. Is it a disadvantage? Yes, a little bit. But if you prepare the best way you can and you're mentally ready, you can go play just as well as a team down south. You just have to be ready for it and adjust quickly."
The last week of practice leading into the SEC Championship in Birmingham, Ala., has been encouraging as the short game appears to be sharpening in practice rounds.
"We've worked a ton on our wedges," said Borst. "We're starting to make those strides the last couple weeks and I'm really excited about that."
And taking down four different SEC opponents heading into championship play?
"I think that was, again, great for their confidence," Borst said. "Is it going to be tough to beat them again at SECs? Yeah, because they are great teams. They do have some girls that are more experienced in bigger and better events than us, but it gave our team a little bit of a taste of what that felt like and that they can do it."
This weekend, Kentucky has a chance to take this program even further. It will be the seniors' last opportunity to compete at the SEC Championship, but the first for the UK freshmen. It will be an experience that could benefit not only the present, but the future of this program for years to come.
"I want to build upon (the current culture), but also change it to win the championship," Borst said. "There always that glass ceiling and Kentucky's never been there, so that's what we're working for and I think it's good for the freshmen to be with these seniors and now try to move it forward and do great things."