Johansson Crowned Minnesota Invitational Co-Champion

MINNEAPOLIS – Kentucky women’s golfer Isabelle Johansson came from behind Tuesday in the final round of the Minnesota Invitational to claim co-champion honors with Furman’s Haylee Harford. With a score of 1-under par, Johansson captured her first tournament championship at UK and the Wildcats’ first individual title since Haley Mills won the “MO”Morial Invitational in September 2013.

Johansson used a birdie bonanza down the stretch to slide into a tie for first place. She recorded four birdies over her last seven holes for a career-low 68 (4-under) in the final round. Johansson and Harford were the only two players in the 60-player field in red numbers.

“Our academic counselor, Joshua Ray, told me before this week, ‘If you’re going to be there, you might as well win,’ ” Johansson said. “We were laughing about it but still being serious, so I guess that quote stuck in my head throughout this week and it turned out pretty good. I have been working hard over the summer with my game. The goal this week for me personally was to finish top 10 individually, so I’m glad that goal was accomplished.”

Johansson started the day in a tie for 12th place, four shots back of the co-leaders, which included Kentucky teammate Anna Hack. She got off on the wrong foot with a bogey on her first hole but responded like a champion by rolling in six of her tournament-high 14 birdies on Tuesday to storm to the top.

“What a great start to the season for Bella,” head coach Golda Johansson Borst said. “She has been working for this win for a long time and it's so great to see her hard work pay off. She is so passionate about our program and wants to bring success to Kentucky women's golf. This was a great step for our team today and something we can build on.” 

Kentucky finished in sixth place with a team score of 898 (34-over par), its best total since the UCF Challenge in February, but perhaps the most promising takeaway from the weekend was UK’s depth. To have one Wildcat lead after the first day of competition (Hack, who tied for 22nd) and then have another win it (Johansson) is a promising sign for the Wildcats as they start the 2016-17 season.

Including senior Jordan Chael, who finished in a tie for 30th, UK had three players finish in the top 30 at the Minikahda Club in Minneapolis. 

Furman and Purdue tied for the team championship at 18-over par, 16 shots better than the Wildcats.

“Our team struggled some in the last two rounds but we have a lot of positives to take from this tournament,” Borst said. “Each round provides us with experiences that we can learn from and we will continue to work on becoming a more consistent team.”

Since her breakthrough 2015 NCAA Championship appearance as a freshman, Johansson’s career has been a model of consistency, leading Kentucky in both stroke average and top-50 finishes (six) last season. The consistency was once again key this week en route to the championship.

Johansson never recorded anything worse than a bogey in all three rounds while leading the tournament with 14 birdies. She was particularly good on par 5s with a score of 5-under par, but her championship-clinching stretch over the last seven holes included four birdies on par 4s and a birdie on her final hole of the tournament at the 308-yard fifth.

Johansson’s 68 beat her previous career-low score in college competition by two strokes.

Hack, a redshirt sophomore actually looked like she was headed for the championship through the first two rounds. She entered the day at 1-under par and in a four-way tie for first place after 36 holes. However, after recording six birdies and an eagle on Monday, the 2016 U.S. Women’s Open qualifier had trouble finding red numbers on Tuesday.

After opening the final round with a birdie, a quadruple bogey dropped her out of the lead and back to the pack. She was never able to recover and finished with a final-day 82 for a 22nd-place finish at 9-over par. It was Hack’s third top-25 finish in her last four collegiate tournaments.

Senior Jordan Chael, who posted a top-10 finish at last year’s Minnesota Invitational, got off to a fast start Tuesday with birdies in her opening two holes. A rash of back-nine bogeys halted her progress, but she ended the day at 12-over par for the tournament in a tie for 30th.

Redshirt junior Ale Walker completed her first collegiate tournament in nearly a year and a half at 19-over par to tie for 48th. Freshman Sarah Shipley finished in a tie for 54th at 23-over par in her first taste of college competition. 

This week’s tournament was being played at the historic Minikahda Club. Located southwest of Minneapolis, the Minikahda Club has a long and storied past, playing host to the 1916 US Open, the 1927 USA Amateur, the 1957 Walker Cup, the 1988 US Women’s Amateur and the 1998 Curtis Cup. The course played at 6,119 yards, par 72 this week.

The Wildcats will waste little time before returning to competition Monday at the East & West Match Play Challenge in Ann Arbor, Michigan.  

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