#KWG Qualifies for Championship Bracket at Match Play Challenge

ANN ARBOR, Mich. – The Kentucky women’s golf team took the positive momentum it generated in its opening week of competition and kept it rolling Sunday right into the championship bracket of the East & West Match Play Challenge.

The Wildcats, with two of the best 18-hole round scores in program history, placed second in the stroke-play portion of the East & West Match Play Challenge and are one of four teams to advance to the match-play semifinals of the three-day tournament at Radrick Farms Golf Course (par 72, 6,292 yards) in Ann Arbor, Michigan. UK will take on No. 3 seed Wisconsin on Monday in the semifinals. 

The winner of the Kentucky-Wisconsin match will advance to Tuesday’s championship round, which will also be match play. Ohio State and Oregon will square off Monday in the other semifinal match, while the other four teams in the tournament will play in the consolation bracket.

With a complete team effort Sunday, UK combined for a 2-over-par 578 in the 36-hole stroke-play portion of the tournament. In the first round, with freshman Josephine Chang firing a 1-under 71 in her first college tournament, the Wildcats carded a 4-over 292, which would have tied Kentucky’s best 18-hole score for the entire 2015-16 season.

UK got even better in the second round.

Behind a career-low-tying 2-under 70 from redshirt junior Ale Walker, the Wildcats recorded a 2-under 286 in the second round, Kentucky’s best score since shooting a 284 in the second round of the UCF Challenge in February 2015. Sunday’s afternoon round ties for the sixth-best 18-hole score in school history, with records dating back to 1987.

“Today was a really solid day for us,” head coach Golda Johansson Borst said. “They all really like this golf course and it sets up well for our team. All of them played with poise and stayed aggressive, which led to a good amount of birdies. These greens are big, undulated and have a lot of slope to them, so I'm very proud of how they handled themselves on the greens today. They bounced back from their bad holes and just kept fighting all the way to the finish.” 

“We learned a lot last week about playing 36 holes in Minnesota and it was great to see them draw from that experience today as we got further into our second round.”

Chang and Walker finished stroke play in a tie for fourth at 1-under par, but they were far from the only Wildcats with stellar rounds Sunday. In one of the most balanced efforts of the Borst era, four Wildcats finished in the top 10.  

On Monday, Kentucky will take on Wisconsin in a best-of-five individual match-play competition to determine the winner. Those head-to-head matches will begin at 9:18 a.m. Freshman Sarah Shipley, who is competing as an individual for UK and placed seventh in stroke play, is the top seed among the individual bracket and will play Wisconsin’s Ali Nageotte at 9:09 a.m. That match does not affect the team competition. 

Live scoring will continue to be available at golfstat.com.

Monday’s full matchups include:
1. Anna Hack (UK | T22nd | +5) vs. Gabby Curtis (Wisconsin | 3rd | -2)
2. Isabelle Johansson (UK | T17th | +4) vs. Becky Klongland (Wisconsin | T17th | +4)
3. Josephine Chang (UK | T4th | -1) vs. Bunyaporn Zeng (Wisconsin | T22nd | +5)
4. Ale Walker (UK | T4th| -1) vs. Brooke Ferrell (Wisconsin | T4th | -1)
5. Jordan Chael (UK | T8th | +2) vs. Tess Hackworthy (Wisconsin | 47th | +17)

1. Sarah Shipley (UK | T7th | +1) vs. 4. Ali Nageotte (Wisconsin | T38th | +13)

The tournament is a different look for Kentucky, but one that Borst intentionally scheduled because it mirrors the NCAA Championships format. 

“This is the first time for our team to play in this type of event and I am looking forward to seeing a shift in their mindset,” Borst said. “Wisconsin is a very solid team, and much like us, they have a group of strong competitors. With that said, I'm very confident in our lineup and I think we're in for a good match tomorrow.”

Borst and the Wildcats head into match play with a ton of confidence with good reason. From top to bottom, everyone played solid Sunday. The best of the bunch were Walker and Chang. 

After knocking off the rust last week from playing in her first college tournament in nearly a year and a half because of injury, Walker posted a 36-hole score of 1-under par Sunday and tied for fourth with Chang. Walker got off to a fast start in the first round with three birdies in her opening six holes. After weathering bogeys on the back nine of her first round, she settled into the second round with three birdies and just one bogey. 

Walker’s second-round 70 tied the best 18-hole score of her career, matching her 70 in the second round of the Stanford Intercollegiate in October 2014. The difference Sunday is this 70 came on a par 72; the Stanford Intercollegiate 70 was on a par 71.

Chang, meanwhile, wasted no time in setting a precedent for her future career-low scores. In the opening 18 holes of her collegiate career, she fired a 1-under 71 thanks to three birdies and just two bogeys. The round proved to be no fluke, as she nearly matched it in the afternoon with an even-par 72 that included four birdies.

Shipley, also a freshman, was right behind Walker and Chang in a tie for seventh place. In her second career tournament, she opened with a 1-over 73 and followed up with an even-par 72 in the second round for a total of 1-over par over the 36 holes.

Walker, Chang and Shipley were among the tournament leaders with seven birdies apiece.

A testament to Kentucky’s depth this season, three of the Wildcats’ top four from a season in terms of stroke average were behind Walker, Chang and Shipley on Sunday – and still, all three of them performed well, especially senior Jordan Chael. She tied for eighth (2-over par) with a 2-over-par 74 in the first 18 holes and an ever-par 72 in the afternoon. 

Junior Isabelle Johansson (4-over par), who is fresh off a co-championship at the Minnesota Invitational last week, rebounded from a 4-over-par 76 in the first round with an even-par 72 in the second, while redshirt sophomore Anna Hack, who qualified for the 2016 U.S. Women’s Open over the summer, tied for 22nd at 5-over par.

“I am very proud of the whole group, but to have four girls finish in the top 10 individually shows our depth this year,” Borst said. “They are all pushing each other and playing hard for Kentucky, and that's all we can ask for.” 

The East & West Match Play Challenge is in its third season. Michigan and Wisconsin teamed up to host the event when the NCAA finals format altered in 2015 from straight stroke play to a match-play format. The idea was to give teams the experiences for postseason play.

Michigan and Wisconsin alternate in hosting the event. Radrick Farms Golf Course, Michigan’s home course, hosted the inaugural event in 2014. 

For the latest on the Kentucky women’s golf team, follow the team on TwitterFacebook and Instagram, as well as on the web at UKathletics.com