UK Women’s Golf Heads South for Mercedes-Benz Championship
LEXINGTON, Ky. – Not even a week since its season-opening tournament at the Minnesota Invitational, the Kentucky women’s golf team heads south this week for the Mercedes-Benz Championship at the Cherokee Country Club in Knoxville, Tenn.
For the second straight tournament for the Wildcats, the format will cover two days. Play will begin Monday at 8:30 a.m. with 36 holes of play, followed by the third-round conclusion of 18 holes on Tuesday.
“It’s exciting for me to bring my team back to Knoxville,” head coach Golda Johansson Borst said. “I have been looking forward to this event for some time and have a lot of great memories here. I also think this golf course sets up well for our girls; you really have to place the ball around the greens and be accurate off the tee. The Bermuda grass is different for them, but we worked on it for quite some time so they have more confidence around the greens now.
“We have a solid lineup this week and I think the girls learned a lot in Minnesota. I believe they are all ready to get back out on the course and compete.”
Hosted by the University of Tennessee, the 19th annual Mercedes-Benz Championship will feature 14 teams, four of which (No. 15 Tennessee, No. 21 Ohio State, No. 24 North Carolina State and No. 29 UNLV) were ranked in Golfweek’s preseason top 30. Eight of the 14-team field made the NCAA regional field in 2015, including Kentucky.
UK will face familiar foes in Southeastern Conference rivals Tennessee and Florida. Three teams (Illinois, Kent State and Minnesota) were in last week’s Minnesota Invitational with UK.
South Carolina, with a three-round score of 13-over par, won the tournament in 2014. No other team finished better than 25-over par.
Located in Knoxville, Tenn., Cherokee Country Club will play at 5,870 yards, par 71. A Donald Ross-designed course, Cherokee Country Club’s undulated greens and its narrow fairways make up for its length. It opened in 1907.
After finishing in the top 10 at the Minnesota Invitational, junior Jordan Chael will lead two juniors, two sophomores and a freshman into Knoxville.
Chael, a transfer from Nebraska, made an immediate impact in her first tournament as a Wildcat with a 10th-place finish at the Minnesota Invitational. Chael posted back-to-back rounds of 73 in the first 36 holes to propel her to her fifth career top-10 finish.
Sophomore Isabelle Johansson – who, in 2015, became the first Wildcat to qualify for the NCAA Championships since 1998 – picked up where she left off in the spring with a 34th-place finish last week.
Sophomore Grace Rose closed out the Minnesota Invitational strong with a final-day 74. Junior Megan Kinney provided the signature moment of the season so far with a hole-in-one in the second round in Minneapolis, Minn.
Freshman Anna Hack, who joined Kentucky in January, will make her collegiate debut at the Mercedes-Benz Championship. In high school, the Paducah, Ky., native won the 2012 Kentucky High School Athletic Association championship and was a five-time Kentucky All-State honoree.
What’s at Stake
The opening week of the season for the Kentucky women’s golf season provided, as Borst described last week, moments of brilliance with Chael’s strong debut and Kinney’s hole-in-one, but it was also muddled with inconsistencies that resulted in an 11th-place finish.
The ultimate goal for the UK women’s golf team, which has made it to a school-record five straight NCAA regionals, is to break through this season and make it to the NCAA Championships. That can’t happen until the spring, but the foundation for the season is now and Johansson would like to see improvement from the first tournament to the second.
Now is also a time to tinker with lineups and find out what five golfers give the team the best chance to succeed. With that said, Borst will go to a bit of a youth movement this week with two sophomores and a freshman making her college debut.
After the Mercedes-Benz Championship, the Wildcats will be off until Oct. 9.
How You Can Follow
Fans can follow along with live scoring of the Mercedes-Benz Championship at golfstat.com.