July 29, 2009
LEXINGTON, Ky. — After finishing in the top five in five tournaments last season, including seventh at the Southeastern Conference Championships and ninth at the NCAA Regional, the University of Kentucky men’s golf team has announced a demanding 2009-10 fall and spring tournament schedule, head coach Brian Craig announced Wednesday.
“We are very fortunate to have put together one of the best schedules in the nation for the upcoming season,” said Craig, who will be entering his ninth season as UK’s head coach. “Our goal is always to play the best competition on the best courses to help prepare our team for the post-season. We have accomplished that goal with this schedule and are looking forward to the challenge.”
The fall schedule, which kicks off Sept. 13-14 with the Wolf Run Intercollegiate, is the first of back-to-back tournaments UK will co-host during the fall season. The Wildcats second tournament to co-host is the Gary Koch Invitational held Oct. 3-4.
The Wolf Run Intercollegiate will be co-hosted by Kentucky and Indiana. This marks the second consecutive season that the Wildcats have opened fall play with the tournament. Held at the Wolf Run Golf Club in Zionsville, Ind., last year UK finished fourth at the tournament with a three round total of 895. The Wildcats have played in the tournament since 2006-07, with their best finish coming in 2006-07 when they won the tournament outright.
For the first time since 2005-06, Kentucky will play in the Gary Koch Invitational. The Invitational had been held every year of the Brian Craig Era until 2006-07 and hasn’t been held since. The Wildcats have never finished out of the top-five in the tournament, posting a first-place finish in 2004-05, second-place finishes in 2005-06 and 2002-03, a fourth-place finish in 2001-02 and a fifth-place finish in 2003-04. In fact, UK’s three-round total of 843 at the 2005-06 Invitational is the lowest three-round total score since 2001-02, when records were kept. The Invite is held at Old Memorial Golf Club in Tampa, Fla., and the Wildcats will co-host the tournament with Auburn.
The Wildcats wrap-up the fall schedule playing in their first Firestone Invitational at Firestone Golf Club in Akron, Ohio, Oct. 12-13 and the Isleworth Collegiate Invitational at Isleworth Country Club in Windermere, Fla., Oct. 25-27. It will mark the sixth straight year the Wildcats have played in the Isleworth Collegiate Invitational, with all appearances being the final tournament of the fall season. UK’s best finish in the tournament was a seventh place finish in 2006-07.
After almost a four month layoff, the Wildcats will head back to the course and start spring action with the Jacksonville University Invitational at TPC (Stadium Course) in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., Feb. 8-9. Last year in the JU Invite, four Wildcats posted their best finish of the year as Kentucky finished in second place. The tournament was also the spring kickoff for the Wildcats last year and marks the third and final time the Wildcats will travel to Florida during the regular season.
Kentucky’s next two tournaments are not as familiar to the Wildcats as the final three tournaments that wrap up the 2009-10 season. UK will play in the Mobile Bay Intercollegiate Feb. 21-23, the first time the Wildcats have played in the tournament held at Magnolia Grove Golf Club in Mobile, Ala. After the Mobile Bay Intercollegiate the Wildcats will go to Myrtle Beach, S.C., to play in the General Hackler Championship for the second straight year at TPC of Myrtle Beach March 14-15. Last year, the Wildcats finished seventh at the Championship with then freshman Mads Kristensen leading Kentucky with a top-10 finish.
UK will return to familiar courses the next three tournaments with the Schenkel E-Z-GO Invitational, Hootie at Bulls Bay Intercollegiate and the UK Bluegrass Invitational. The Wildcats have played in the Schenkel E-Z-Go Invite since 2005-06 and have finished well in the tournament. UK has only finished out of the top-10 once in the tournament, and has posted two top-five finishes. Last year, the Wildcats finished fifth. The tournament is held at Forest Heights Country Club in Statesboro, Ga.
The Hootie is a very familiar tournament for the Wildcats, having played in the intercollegiate since 2004-05. Held at Bulls Bay Golf Club in Awendaw, S.C., March 28-30, Kentucky will look to keep up a tradition of playing well at the tournament. The Wildcats have finished in the top-15 of the tournament every year, including winning the tournament in 2004-05 and finishing ninth the last two seasons.
The final regular-season tournament for the Wildcats is the only tournament Kentucky hosts outright all year, the UK Bluegrass Invitational. The invitational is held at the University Club (Big Blue Course) in Lexington, Ky., April 10-11. The tournaments inaugural season was 2007-08 where the Wildcats finished fourth and UK golfer Brian Belden finished in a tie for first. Last year, the Wildcats won the tournament, with 2009-10 senior Ben Fuqua finishing in fourth place.
Kentucky will return its entire roster from last season with the exception of senior Andy Winings who lead the Wildcats in season stroke average, top-ten finishes and top-20 finishes. The recent news of Fuqua receiving an extra year of eligibility from the NCAA will help fill the void left by Winings along with the continued strong play from senior Jordan Blann, who won the Kentucky-Am this summer and junior James Kania, who finished second in the Philadelphia-Am this summer and won the 2009 Braemar Invitational.
“We are returning three of our top players from last year in Ben Fuqua, Jordan Blann and James Kania,” Craig said. “There is no doubt that we will be looking for those three upperclassmen to be strong leaders on this year’s team. Mads Kristensen will also be back for his sophomore campaign after gaining invaluable experience last year. I expect our incoming freshmen, Michael Kania, Cody Martin and Chase Parker, to all compete for a spot in the starting lineup along with the returning players. We should have the most competition that we have had in a number of years for the travel team.”
UK has had several players this summer take their games to the next level. Senior Alex Volpenhein won the U.S. Amateur Public Links Qualifier title in Cincinnati, Ohio, to qualify for the U.S. Amateur Links Championship in Norman, Okla. Fellow senior Brian Belden also qualified as an alternate for the Championship in Norman as well.
Junior Chase Carpenter finished fifth in the 2009 Stephens Oil Classic Tournament Amateur Division held at Cherry Blossom Golf & Country Club in Georgetown, Ky. Carpenter, a native of Saylersville, Ky., shot an impressive 2-under-par, 70 for the tournament
Incoming freshman Cody Martin, who finished second at the Kentucky Junior Amateur, sophomore Joseph Barr and senior Derek Oldham each qualified for the Kentucky Open being played in mid August. Several other UK golfers are expected to play in the tournament as well though did not have to go through a qualifying round due to previous wins this summer.
Martin, along with fellow incoming freshman Michael Kania, younger brother to James, and Chase Parker are expected to make an impact for the Wildcats this season as freshman. Sophomores Seth Blann, Barr and Kristensen should bring competition to the Wildcats this year with a year of college experience under their belt.