UK Women’s Golf Begins Postseason Play at SEC Championship
BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – The postseason is upon the Kentucky women’s golf team this weekend at the Southeastern Conference Championship. A nine-event, seven-month regular season will give way to the annual conference tournament in Birmingham, Alabama, for the league title.
UK will be seeking its first SEC title in program history in the 37th season of the tournament. The SEC Championship will be a three-day, 54-hole format with 18 holes each day. All 14 of the league’s teams will be represented.
The first teams will tee off Friday at 9 a.m. ET. The Wildcats’ first tee time is at 1:16 p.m. ET. Live scoring will be available throughout the week at Golfstat.com.
"We are really looking forward to this weekend because it's SEC Championship time,” head coach Golda Johansson Borst said. “We have had a great week and a half of preparation since Phoenix (PING ASU Invitational) and the whole team looks very solid. I feel like we have a great opportunity to surprise some teams this week if we can be consistent with our scores. Our conference is one of the toughest in the country, but our team is coming together and peaking at the right time and we are ready to compete this week.”
Kentucky has made major strides in 2016-17 after an injury-riddled season in 2015-16 that tested the Wildcats’ depth and forced its youth into action. After missing the NCAA regionals for the first time in the Borst era (which began in 2010-11), UK bounced back this season with a number of strong performances.
The Wildcats boast four top-five finishes in its eight stroke-play tournament format events, plus a win over Louisville in the Battle of the Bluegrass. UK has individual titles from junior Isabelle Johansson (Minnesota Invitational) and freshman Sarah Shipley (East & West Match Play Challenge individual bracket winner). The Wildcats also shot three rounds of under par as team this season, including a school record 277 (11-under par) in the final round of the Ron Moore Women’s Intercollegiate.
All that has put Kentucky in good position to return to the NCAA regionals. The Wildcats enter the week ranked No. 53 in the Golfstat rankings, but a decent showing at the SEC Championship this week would go a long way in securing a bid.
The field, annually one of the toughest in all of collegiate golf, could be a prime opportunity for UK to strengthen its résumé as six of the 14 teams in the field are ranked in Golfstat’s top 25, including three in the top 10.
Kentucky will try to counter the competition with its most experienced lineup of 2016-17. Johansson, sophomore Grace Rose, Shipley, freshman Josephine Chang and senior Jordan Chael have all played in at least five events this season.
Johansson is rounding back into form at the right time. After an uncharacteristic stretch of eight straight rounds without a score of par or better, Kentucky’s season stroke leader fired back-to-back rounds of 70 to end the PING ASU Invitational two weeks ago. She tied for 17th place, her team-leading sixth top-20 finish. She’s also got three top-10 finishes.
Rose tied for 29th at the PING ASU Invitational with a total score of 5-over par after a final-round 71. She’s making her third consecutive appearance in the SEC Championship and her seventh straight appearance of the season.
Shipley and Chang will try to ride the positive momentum they generated earlier this week when they won a local qualifier and advanced to the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship, which will be held in May. Shipley shot in the 70s in all three rounds at the PING ASU Invitational, while Chang is second on the team with seven rounds of par or better.
Chael returned to competition two weeks ago after missing the previous two tournaments. She was arguably Kentucky’s best golfer in the fall with three straight top-10 finishes in stroke-play tournament action.
The tournament will return to the Greystone Golf & Country Club’s Legacy Course, a par 72 that plays at 6,202 yards. The Legacy Course is carved naturally from a visually dramatic landscape of placid lakes, meandering streams and the undulation of Alabama's Appalachian foothills. Designed by world-famous architect Rees Jones, each hole is an inviting yet demanding contest. The Zoysia fairways and Bent Grass greens found at Legacy provide golfers with surfaces that are both challenging and rewarding.
Kentucky has finished as high as second in the SEC Championship but has never won it. The Wildcats’ highest finish in the Borst era is fifth.
Alabama, the No. 1 team in the country, won last year’s tournament.
For the latest on the Kentucky women’s golf team, follow the team on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat, as well as on the web at UKathletics.com.