Wildcats Answer Challenge, Climb Leaderboard in Clover Cup Finale

MESA, Ariz. – The Kentucky women’s golf team faced a steep challenge early in the round Sunday when one of its competitors was disqualified just two holes into her day for a rules infraction. That meant the Wildcats’ margin for error was nil if they hoped to move up the Clover Cup leaderboard with all four remaining scores having to count.

Consider the challenge accepted.

Not only did the Wildcats keep it together Sunday, they actually played their best round of the tournament. UK shot a final-round 287 (1-under par) and moved up five spots in the final 18 holes to finish in fifth place at the Clover Cup with a score of 884 (20-over par). 

All four score-eligible Wildcats shot 1-over or better in the final round at Longbow Golf Club in Mesa, Arizona, with sophomore Claire Carlin firing a career-low round and freshman Josephine Chang shooting even par for a second straight day. 

The comeback, once again under blazing temperatures that reached into the upper 90s, secured the Wildcats’ fifth top-five finish in stroke-play tournament format. UK started the day in 10th place. 

“What a day for our Cats,” head coach Golda Johansson Borst said. “This is one of the greatest days we have had all year on the course because we saw the true character of our team. We lost Sarah (Shipley) early in the round, which was tough, but the rest of the team battled hard and responded well to the adversity. 

“As a coach, this is what you want to see out of your team. They committed to their game plans and stayed aggressive throughout the day. It was great to see how they improved each day on the course and how it came together for us. At the end of the day, they all stepped up when we needed it the most, and I couldn't be more proud of them.”

No. 5 Arizona State ran away with the tournament and captured the Clover Cup championship with a score of 26-under par, 13 shots clear of Oklahoma. The Sooners’ Julienne Soo was never threatened in the final round and won the individual title at 13-under par.

Chang was the top overall finisher for the Wildcats with back-to-back rounds of 72. Her 54-hole total of 219 edged her previous 54-hole career best. She tied for 16th, also a career best, and notched her second top-20 showing of the season.

The freshman from Rancho Cucamonga, California, started her career with four straight rounds of even- or under-par golf, followed with a stretch of nine rounds where she failed to break even or better, and now has two straight at even. 

Chang was 2-over par through her first five holes but battled back with three birdies and an eagle on the par-5 15th (her sixth hole of the day). 

But it may have been Carlin who actually provided the biggest lift of the day. With Shipley out of the equation due to a rules infraction, Carlin stepped up with by far the best round of her career.

A day after setting career-low mark of 75, Carlin blew that score out of the water with a final-round 69 (3-under par). The Keller, Texas, native built on the momentum she generated Saturday and recorded four birdies Sunday with just one bogey. She tied for 53rd overall.

Carlin joined the team last year as a midseason walk-on and was making just her second appearance this season and fourth of her career. With Sunday’s round, she’s put herself in the conversation for future lineups.

Grace Rose will likely be making more appearances as she continued her ever-consistent play in the final round. The sophomore from Nicholasville, Kentucky, finished in a tie for 31st at 6-over par (222) after Sunday’s round of 73. 

Junior Isabelle Johansson also shot a 73 with a team-high tying four birdies. Johansson ended up in a tie for 39th at 9-over par, marking the first tournament this season she failed to finish in the top 20.

Longbow Golf Club played at 6,184 yards this week with a par of 72. This weekend marked UK’s first ever appearance in the sixth year of the Clover Cup.

Kentucky will make a trip home before a quick turnaround next weekend at the LSU Tiger Classic in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. That tournament – one of three tournaments over a four-week stretch for the Wildcats before the Southeastern Conference Championship in late April – will begin Friday. 

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