April 14, 2011
LEXINGTON, Ky. – Coming off one of its best outings of the year at the University of Kentucky Bluegrass Invitational, the Kentucky men’s golf team hopes to keep its strong play going when it heads south for the always challenging Southeastern Conference Championship on Friday.
The 54-hole tournament will be held April 15-17, at the Sea Island (Ga.) Golf Club Seaside Course.
The course, designed by famed course designer Thomas Fazio, opened in 2005 and will play at par-70 with a yardage of 6,657 this weekend. The SEC Championship has been played at Sea Island since 2001, with Georgia winning five of the 10 championships. Kentucky took home the crown in 2005, while Alabama, Auburn, Florida and Tennessee have each won one conference tournament title during that time.
Last year, Kentucky had a notable run at the SEC Championships, finishing sixth overall with the second lowest SEC Championship team score during the 10-year Brian Craig Era. Then-senior Ben Fuqua led Kentucky, earning a top-six finish, while then-freshman Chase Parker was second on the team in a tie for 22nd. Current Wildcats senior Brian Belden and junior Mads Kristensen also participated in last year’s tournament, with Belden finishing tied for 26th and Kristensen tied for 51st.
UK will send a young rotation to the event, featuring Belden, Kristensen, sophomore Parker and freshmen Stephen Powers and Cody Martin. This is the second time this season Kentucky has used the lineup. Kentucky sent the same five players to the Hootie at Bulls Bay Intercollegiate in late March.
Parker headlines the UK rotation as the lone Wildcat to play in every event this season. The native of Augusta, Ga., has a team-low season stroke average of 73.46 with two top-10 finishes. The sophomore’s best finish came in the Mobile Bay Intercollegiate, where he finished tied for second with a season-low 53-hole score of 212.
Martin is second in the Wildcat rotation and is looking to continue what has been a promising spring season. The native of Union, Ky., has played in every tournament this spring and has earned a stroke average of 72.8 in five spring events. The freshman has one top-20 finish this season, finishing tied for fourth in the Mobile Bay Intercollegiate. Martin has ended all five spring tournaments in the top 35 and has been Kentucky’s top golfer in three spring tournaments.
Powers, who had his coming out party last weekend at the UK Bluegrass Invitational, will fill the No. 3 spot for UK. The freshman was incredible at Kentucky’s home event, carding a season-low round of 6-under-par 65 and finishing tied for second. The native of Naperville, Ill., has a played in seven events for this season, posting a season stroke average of 74.89.
Belden, who leads the team with five top-20 finishes, is back in the UK lineup after playing as an individual last weekend. The native of Emmaus, Pa., had a solid fall with four consecutive top-20 finishes. Belden played well in the UK Bluegrass Invitational, carding two rounds of even-par of below to finish tied for 16th.
Kristensen completes the Kentucky rotation, having played in the SEC Championship his previous two seasons. The junior has played in five events this season and has a season stroke average of 75. The native of Denmark has played in three consecutive tournaments, with his best outing coming at the UK Bluegrass Invitational, where he finished tied for 21st.
UK will face strong competition at the event, including six top-15 ranked teams according to GolfStat.com rankings in No. 2 Alabama, No. 6 Florida, No. 8 LSU, No. 10 Auburn, No. 14 Georgia and No. 15 Arkansas.
Live scores from the tournament will be available at GolfStat.com. For more information on the Kentucky men’s golf team, visit UKathletics.com or follow “UKmensgolf” on Twitter.