Wildcats Raising the Bar in 2005-06
By Sean Cartell - UK Media Relations
Heading into the 2005-06 season, fifth-year head coach Stephanie Barker had high expectations for her Kentucky women’s golf squad. Barker moved away from traditional scheduling to create a slate that best fit her team.
And judging by fall results, the Wildcats have exceeded those expectations. The Cats posted three top-five team finishes in their five fall tournaments this year and consistently posted single-round scores below 300.
“We really keep raising our goals because of how well we played this fall,” Barker said. “This team is definitely headed in the right direction. We set our goal at the beginning of the season as wanting to break 300 at least one day each tournament, but we started shooting 291s and we’ve really had to raise the bar.”
Kentucky tailor-made its schedule to include more two-day events which include 36 holes the opening day and 18 holes on the final day of competition.
“We have a challenging schedule this season, but I think it is a good mix that fits our team very well,” Barker said. “We added more 36/18 hole events in order to meet the strengths of our team.”
UK begins its six-tournament spring schedule Feb. 19, when it travels to Miami to compete in the Papa John’s Collegiate Invitational. Other highlights of the spring schedule include the LSU/Cleveland Golf Classic and the Sun Trust Lady Gator Invitational.
The Wildcats have been led this season by their senior duo of Erin Faulkner and Ali Kicklighter. Faulkner posted two top-10 individual finishes during the fall season, including a tie for second at the University of Louisville’s Cardinal Cup in late September.
“Erin made some changes to her swing this season and they have really helped to move her game up to the next level,” Barker said. “She has incredible drive and athletic ability.”
The strength of UK’s squad has been its balance. With each of its five tournaments this past fall, a different Wildcat stepped up and led the way for the Cats. Four different golfers have posted at least one top-10 individual finish this season.
“The exciting thing about this team is that all of our top players from last year are back with us,” Barker said. “Everyone looks really good and has contributed well for us. The entire team has worked extremely hard this year and in the off-season and everyone really has stepped up big for us.”
The Wildcats opened the 2005-06 season with a second-place finish at the Cardinal Cup in Simpsonville, Ky. The Cats fired a three-round total of 907 (311-300-296) and were led by Faulkner’s two-over-par 218.
“The Cardinal Cup was really a good way to start our season,” Barker said. “I felt like we put together two good rounds and everyone competed well individually.”
In their annual Wildcat Fall Invitational, Kentucky carded a first-round low 291 in the opening round and finished its home tournament in fourth place. Sophomore Beth Felts stepped up for the Cats, posting a five-over-par 221 over the two-day event.
“I really am proud of the way Beth played at our home tournament,” Barker said. “She was able to put together some good rounds and really had a great tournament.”
After facing stiff competition at the University of North Carolina’s Lady Tar Heel Invite, which included seven teams ranked in the Golfweek top 25, the Wildcats traveled to Rogers, Ark., to play in the Tyson/Embassy Suites Arkansas Invitational.
The Cats had a tough opening day, shooting a 311 and concluding the first round in 10th place. Kentucky, however, posted strong scores in the tournament’s second and third rounds to finish the event in third place. Kicklighter carded a 226 (78-74-74) to lead the Wildcats.
“I was so happy with the way our team battled at the Arkansas tournament in order to finish strong,” Barker said. “It was really a good course and we did a nice job of getting some birdies.”
The Cats concluded their fall slate by battling tough weather conditions in Hawaii to finish the Kent Youel Invitational in 12th place. The Wildcats look to carry the momentum of their fall success into the upcoming spring schedule.
“This entire season is going to be a tremendous experience and an exciting year for everyone,” Barker said. “We are looking to finishing in the top four at the SEC Championships and qualifying for regionals and nationals.”