Johansson Among Leaders After First Day of NCAA Regionals
SOUTH BEND, Ind. -- Playing in just her fifth career collegiate tournament, freshman Isabelle Johansson picked a fine time to play the best golf of her young career to help keep the Kentucky women's golf team stay in the hunt for an NCAA Championship bid after the first day of regional play.
The first-year Wildcat fired her lowest round of the season with a 2-under-par 70 to lead UK on the first day of competition at the South Bend Regional. The Wildcats posted a 301 (13-over par) on the first 18 holes with 36 more holes left to play at the Warren Golf Course.
Kentucky is in 11th place overall, just five shots out of the all-important sixth-place spot. The top six teams in the 18-team regional will advance -- along with the top six teams from each of the other three regionals -- to the NCAA Championships, to be held May 22-27 the Concession Golf Club in Bradenton, Fla.
UK finished the day ahead of ahead of three teams ranked higher in the national rankings, including host and 30th-ranked Notre Dame and No. 41 Louisville.
"Golf is a funny game. We had a really solid practice round yesterday and the girls felt ready to play. Overall we got off to a shaky start today, but once they settled in they played solid golf," head coach Golda Johansson Borst said. "The bunkers and greens provided some of them with a challenge, so they worked on that after the round. The team did a lot of great stuff today and fought all the way to the end. We just need to keep grinding and stay in it."
Johansson was spectacular in her first NCAA Tournament competition. The Sala, Sweden native played near flawless golf on Thursday, recording three birdies and 14 pars. The freshman's only blemish of the round was a bogey on No. 10, her opening hole of the day.
After that, Johansson recorded nothing but even or red numbers to move into a tie for second place. She's just three shots off the lead.
"I'm proud of Bella," Borst said. "She really found her groove today and it was fun to watch. She kept her composure throughout the day and struck the ball extremely well."
Haley Mills, Kentucky's leader in stroke average during the 2014-15 season, posted the second-best numbers Thursday for the Wildcats. Mills got off to a bit of a rough start with a double bogey and bogey in her first three holes, but the sophomore rebounded nicely with three birdies in a six-hole stretch.
Overall, Mills finished with a 2-over-par 74 and in a tie for 25th place.
Freshman Grace Rose, who has been one of the Wildcats' top golfers down the stretch of the season, led UK in first-round birdies with four. The Nicholasville, Ky., product carded three of those birdies on the front nine and recorded a 77 (f5-over par), good enough for 49th place.
Juniors Cylia Damerau, Kentucky's top finisher at the Southeastern Conference Championship, and Sarah Harris each shot opening-round 80s (8-over par) and are tied for 80th place.
Duke fired an even-par round and leads the 18-team field. Wake Forest (5-over par), Arizona (6-over par) and UC Davis (7-over par) follow, with Kent State and Oklahoma State tied for fifth place at 8-over par.
Kentucky, making its 20th appearance in regionals and the fifth straight under Borst, will return to the course for 18 more holes on Friday morning. Damerau will be the first to tee off at 8 a.m. Fans can continue to follow along with live scoring at golfstat.com.
For the latest on the Kentucky women's golf team, follow @UKWomensGolf on Twitter and on the web at UKathletics.com.
T2. Isabelle Johansson: 70 (-2)
T25. Haley Mills: 74 (+2)
T49. Grace Rose: 77 (+5)
T80. Cylia Damerau: 80 (+8)
T80. Sarah Harris 80 (+8)
11. Kentucky: 301 (+13)
2015 NCAA Championship -- South Bend Regional
South Bend, Ind.
Warren Golf Course