Johansson Cards Career Low for Third Place at UCF Challenge
ORLANDO, Fla. – Kentucky women’s golfer Isabelle Johansson closed out the UCF Challenge on Tuesday with a career-best 54-hole score and very nearly her second individual championship of the season.
Johansson, who earlier in the round came from three shots back to take sole possession of first place late in the day, finished in third place at 8-under par, three shots behind individual champion Chieh Jessica Peng from Mississippi State.
The 208 easily beat her previous career high of 215, which was set when she won the individual championship at the Minnesota Invitational to start the season.
With Johansson leading the way all tournament, including a school-record-tying 64 in the opening round, UK finished with a 10-over 874 for the week, the second-best tournament score of the season. The Wildcats finished in 12th place in a field that featured nine teams ranked in the top 50, including four in the top 20.
The 12th-place finish snapped Kentucky’s string of three straight tournaments in the top five, a testament to the strength of this week’s field at the Eagle Creek Golf Club in Orlando, Florida, and the type of performances the Wildcats have put together in 2016-17. It wasn’t the finish UK had hoped for this week after a strong fall season and a victory over Louisville in the Battle of the Bluegrass to start the spring, but three Wildcats managed to record 54-hole career-low scores, led by Johansson.
“This was certainly not the finish we were after today and we lost quite a few shots down the stretch,” head coach Golda Johansson Borst said. “Although it’s disappointing, I think it’s important to focus on what we can learn from this tournament and to take the positives. We have a couple of freshman in the lineup that have lots to learn still, and I am confident that they will do just that. This team battles hard and our games just weren’t as good as they needed to be in the last couple of days.
“We will learn from this and take advantage of the next five weeks as we prepare for our next tournament in Arizona.”
Johansson started the day three shots back but immediately moved into contention with three straight pars and then a birdie on No. 9 as she made the turn (she started on hole No. 6 because of a shotgun start).
The junior from Sala, Sweden, got to 3-under par on the day and at 13-under for the tournament when she birdied the par-5 13th and the par-5 16th. At that point, Peng had double bogeyed the eighth hole and was 1-over for the round, one shot behind Johansson.
However, Johansson couldn’t sustain the momentum. She double bogeyed the 17th and then bogeyed three of five holes to close out the round.
Even so, it was the lowest 54-hole round for a Wildcat since Liz Breed’s 208 at the 2013 Schooner Fall Classic, which was also the same tournament Breed shot the school record 64 that Johansson tied this week.
It ties Johansson for the team lead with three top-10 finishes this season, the same as senior Jordan Chael. It’s her fourth career top-10 finish overall.
“Bella had a solid week and had an opportunity to come away with the win today,” Borst said. “She made some mistakes late in the round which cost her, but again, it’s an invaluable experience for her and she will get stronger from this. I look for her to have many more of these runs as she truly is one of the best college players out there.”
Junior Grace Rose continued her strong start from the spring with a 54-hole career best of 217. At 1-over par, Rose tied for 28th place, another strong showing after a pair of even-par 72s last week that won her top individual honors in the Battle of the Bluegrass. On Sunday, Rose recorded 15 pars with one birdie and two bogeys.
Freshman Sarah Shipley was the third Wildcat to set a career best for 54 holes with an 8-over 224. She tied for 69th following a final-day 75.
Chael, who played as well as anyone in the fall, posted her first round of 80 or more this season and finished in a tie for 79th at 12-over par. Freshman Josephine Chang ended in 85th at 16-over, while redshirt junior Ale Walker – playing as an individual – had to withdraw in the final round.
Kentucky’s 874 was its second-lowest team score in its sixth appearance in the UCF Challenge. Johansson’s 208 tied Ashleigh Albrecht’s 208 at the 2011 UCF Challenge when she tied for first place.
After two events in a matter of nine days, the Wildcats will be out of action for more than a month until the Clover Cup in Mesa, Arizona, March 17-19. Once UK returns for the Clover Cup, the team will play four tournaments in just over a month’s span.
Heading into this week ranked No. 40 in GolfStat’s rankings, the Wildcats are well-positioned for another run at an NCAA regional postseason berth, which would be UK’s sixth in seven seasons under Borst.