Hack Tied for First Heading into Minnesota Invitational Final Round

MINNEAPOLIS – The feeling among the Kentucky women’s golf team heading into its first tournament of the 2016-17 season was one of optimism and anticipation.

Optimism for a finally healthy, talented and experienced team that had a strong offseason. Anticipation to put behind a season of uncontrollable bumps produced by a rash of season-ending injuries.

So far, the feeling seems to be legit.

With a mix of experience, past success, talented youth and a veteran eager to return to competition in the lineup this week at the Minikahda Club in Minneapolis, the Wildcats find themselves in the mix for both the team and individual championships after two rounds at the Minnesota Invitational.

UK, at 20-over par through 36 holes, is in a tie for fifth place and just six shots behind tournament-leading Texas, while sophomore Anna Hack is in a four-way tie for first place.

If Hack can pull off the individual title, it would be Kentucky’s first since the fall of the 2013-14 season. 

Overall, three Wildcats are in the top 25 and four in the top 50 with 18 holes to play on Tuesday. The conclusion of the tournament will begin at 10 a.m. ET with a shotgun start. 

“We had a solid start to our fall season today and our team showed what they are capable of in the first round,” head coach Golda Johansson Borst said. “We unfortunately gave away some shots in our second round, but overall I am pleased with the demeanor and fight of our group.  

“We will keep learning from each of our rounds so that we can adjust to the changing conditions on the course. If we can do that, good things will come our way.”

Kentucky’s two most accomplished golfers over the last two seasons led the charge in the first two rounds. Hack, who qualified for and played in the 2016 U.S. Women’s Open over the summer, is in a tie for first at 1-under par after a 2-under-par 70 in the second round. Junior Isabelle Johansson, who qualified for the 2015 NCAA Championships and led the Wildcats in stroke average last season, is at 3-over par and in a tie for 12th.

“Anna and Bella lead the way for us and they both stayed steady for us throughout the rounds,” Borst said. “As a whole we need to get more consistent as a team and I think that will come with time. This group is hungry for more golf and I know they have more in them for tomorrow's round.”

Hack, who showed a propensity for going low late in the 2015-16 season when she posted top-25 finishes in two of her last three tournaments, flashed her red-number potential again Monday with six birdies and an eagle over two rounds. 

The only real blemish on her first-round scorecard was a double bogey on the par-5 13th hole. That’s what made her eagle in the second round so special, as she pulled off it off on the very same 466-yard hole. With that second-round eagle and three more birdies, Hack clawed back to red numbers at 1-under par overall. 

Not to be outdone, Johansson is among the field leaders with eight birdies in 36 holes. She rolled in five of them in the first 18 holes for a first-round 72, followed by another three in the second round to get to 3-over par. 

Not far behind is senior Jordan Chael at 7-over par and in a tie for 25th place. Chael shot a tournament-opening 76 but then rebounded with nine straight pars on her opening nine of the second round. She tied for 10th at last year’s Minnesota Invitational for her best finish of the 2015-16 campaign and is in the hunt for a similar result at 7-over par.

Redshirt junior Ale Walker is making her long-awaited return to competition after missing nearly a year and a half due to injuries. Making her first tournament appearance since the LSU Tiger Classic in late March 2015, Walker got off to a fast start in her opening nine holes with two birdies and was among the tournament leaders. She posted a first-round 74 and finished the day at 11-over par. 

While Walker knocks off a bit of rust from an extended absence, freshman Sarah Shipley is getting her first taste of college competition this week in her first career tournament at UK. She completed her first two rounds at 18-over par. 

UK is seeking its best team finish since the 2013-14 season. The Wildcats placed fifth twice in 2015-16 and once in 2014-15. 

The first-round 295 would have qualified as Kentucky’s fourth-best 18-hole score a season. 

This week’s tournament is 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 is playing at 6,119 yards, par 72 this week.

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