UK Women’s Golf Posts Best Finish of the Season at UCF Challenge

ORLANDO, Fla. – If the Kentucky women’s golf team was looking for some positive momentum to start the spring, it got it this weekend with its best showing of the season at the UCF Challenge.

Led by senior Cylia Damerau, who has returned to her steady play of previous years, the Wildcats tied for fifth this week at Eagle Creek Golf Club in Orlando, Fla., the team’s first top-five and top-10 finish of the season. With a team score of 297 on Tuesday and a 292 on Monday, UK doubled its sub-300 rounds for the season and put together its most complete tournament of 2015-16.

Three Wildcats – Damerau in fourth, sophomore Isabelle Johansson in a tie for 11th and sophomore Grace Rose in a tie for 19th – all finished in the top 20. Only two other teams in the field – team champion Houston and Iowa State – had as many individuals in the top 20. Furthermore, it marked the first time Kentucky has had three players finish in the top 20 since the LSU Tiger Golf Classic in March 2014.

For Damerau and Rose, the fourth- and 19th-place finishes, respectively, marked the best of their careers.

“What a great way to kick off the spring season,” head coach Golda Johansson Borst said. “The girls played with great poise and hung tough all three days. They didn't waver in their resolve to compete this week and they came to Orlando with a different mindset. I'm very proud of all of them. This is now something that we can build on and it gives us great confidence that we are working on the right things.”

The aforementioned Houston won the tournament at 21-over par, just seven shots in front of the Wildcats, while East Carolina’s F. Gustafsson Spang won the individual title at 3-under, five shots clear of Damerau.

Damerau was rock-solid for the Wildcats all week. After an opening-round 76, Damerau fired back-to-back rounds of 1-under par on Monday and Tuesday, her first under-par rounds of the season. In finishing in fourth place, the Switzerland native notched the third top-10 finish of her career and the first since her sophomore season in 2013-14.

For the tournament, Damerau recorded nine birdies, including five of them in the final round. Only four other players recorded more. 

“We had some great individual success with Cylia leading the charge,” Borst said. “She has been here for three straight years now and really enjoys playing this golf course. She played with confidence and a strong commitment to her process over the three days, and that led to her success. She has been working on this part of her game for a long time so it was great to see her hard work pay off. 

“Isabelle and Grace also finished well and helped lead the team this week. I can tell that everyone has worked hard over the offseason and it's starting to show in their overall demeanor on the course and in their scores.” 

Johansson has been the most consistent Kentucky golfer since qualifying for the NCAA Championship as an individual last spring, and she continued her steady play at this week’s UCF Challenge. Case in point was Tuesday’s final round, where she nearly pulled off the rare feat of a par on every hole before a late bogey ended her streak. 

The sophomore from Sala, Sweden ended the three-day, 54-hole tournament with 41 pars, second most in the field, and finished in a tie for 11th place after a 1-over 73 on Tuesday and a total score of 5-over par. It marks the best finish of her 2015-16 season and her second career top-20 finish. 

Rose continued her upward trajectory by finishing in a career-best tie for 19th place. After flirting with the lead on the first day of competition, the Nicholasville, Ky., native finished off her week nicely with a 4-over round on Tuesday. Overall, she ended with a 7-over 223, one stroke off her career-low 54-hole score of 222.

With a final-day 78, freshman Anna Hack recorded all three rounds in the 70s for the first time in her young collegiate career and a career-best tie for 53rd at 15-over par.

Junior Jordan Chael rebounded on Tuesday with a 77 and finished in a tie for 81st at 21-over par, while freshman Claire Carlin, competing in her first college tournament as an individual, tied for 93rd at 29-over par.

Eight of the 18 teams in this week’s field started the week in Golfstat’s top 50, and Kentucky’s showing will almost certainly move the Wildcats up in the rankings. 

This week’s tournament was held at the Eagle Creek Golf Club, which played at 6,349 yards and par 72.

Kentucky will get back to the practice range for the next few weeks until returning to the Darius Rucker Intercollegiate in Hilton Head, S.C., March 4-6. 

As always, fans can follow the team on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, as well as on the web at UKathletics.com, for the latest Kentucky women’s golf information.

UCF Challenge
Eagle Creek Golf Club
Orlando, Fla.
Feb. 7-9
Par: 72
Yardage: 6,349