UK Women’s Golf Opens Spring Season at Lady Puerto Rico Classic
RIO GRANDE, Puerto Rico – With the momentum of arguably the best fall season in school history at its back and an exciting but challenging slate ahead lying ahead, the Kentucky women’s golf team begins its spring season Sunday at one of the top collegiate stops in the country: the Lady Puerto Rico Classic in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico.
The Wildcats will return from nearly a four-month break and hope to pick up where they left off in the fall when they won two championships, finished runner-up in another and were in contention for a championship at all four team events.
Kentucky has put itself in great position for the postseason entering this weekend ranked No. 21 in GolfStat, but there’s a difficult spring schedule that awaits the Wildcats, starting Sunday with a challenging field at the Rio Mar Country Club (par 72, 6,164 yards) in Puerto Rico.
The 15-team field features eight teams ranked in Golfstat’s top 50 and three – including Kentucky – in the top 25. The three-day, 54-hole tournament begins Sunday at 8 a.m. AST (7 a.m. EST) with the first of three rounds. All three will be a shotgun start.
Live scoring will be available throughout the weekend at GolfStat.com.
“We are very excited to get back on the road and compete this weekend,” UK head coach Golda Borst said. “The team has been itching to go since we finished up our fall season in October, and I know that they are ready to play. We have an experienced group with us and we look forward to seeing the course and competing against some great teams.”
Hosted by Purdue, the Lady Puerto Rico Classic is in its 18th season. The Wildcats have made one previous appearance, finishing in eighth place in 2013.
Freshman Jensen Castle, senior Sarah Shipley, freshman Marissa Wenzler, sophomore Casey Ott and junior Rikke Svejgård Nielsen earned their way into the lineup for the trip to Puerto Rico. They all played in four of UK’s five events in the fall and combined for 13 of the team’s 16 individual top-20 finishes.
Castle, who joined UK as the highest-rated signee in school history, has more than lived up to her elite high school ranking. With a 71.3 stroke average, Castle is currently ahead of the school-record pace. She finished in the top 10 twice in the fall and in the top 20 in all four of her appearances. Castle played a key part in closing out the first of UK’s two championships to begin the season at the Minnesota Invitational. The South Carolina native is ranked 26th in the country.
Shipley is the consistent veteran of the group. The senior will be making her 36th start for Kentucky and is continuing to build on a stellar college career. She posted two top-20 showings in the fall and tied for fifth place at the Bettie Lou Evans Invitational. As Shipley enters the last leg of her UK career, she currently boasts a career-best 73.2 stroke average.
Castle signed with UK with the lofty prep rankings, but Wenzler has been just as impressive in her first season as a Wildcat. The former Ohio High School Athletic Association state champion finished in the top 20 in her first four collegiate tournaments and played her best golf in the fall finale when she tied for sixth at the Cardinal Cup.
No one owns more top finishes than Ott, who, after missing the lineup to start the season in Minnesota, has built on a red-hot spring season to close her freshman year with an even better sophomore campaign. She owns three top-10 finishes in four appearances this season and is carrying a 73.4 stroke average.
Svejgård Nielsen will round out the Lady Puerto Rico Classic for the Wildcats. She’s the only Wildcat on the roster who’s won an individual college tournament, having captured the MSU Greenbrier Invitational title a season ago. She’s had an equally strong second season for UK with two top-20 showings, including tying for fifth at the Bettie Lou.
The Lady Puerto Rico Classic will be played at the beautiful Rio Mar Country Club’s River Course. Two-time major champion Greg Norman designed the River Course along the serene Mameyes River. Inspired by the natural terrain of the land, the holes are integrated into existing foliage creating a lush, verdant course with stunning views of El Yunque’s mountains and the Atlantic Ocean.
The Wildcats hope it’s a picturesque setting for an ideal start to the spring season. UK will play in five tournaments over the next two months before postseason play.
With the heart of its schedule ahead, here’s a brief recap of what Kentucky accomplished in the fall:
- Back-to-back championships at the Minnesota Invitational and Bettie Lou Evans Invitational
- First multi-win season since 1997-98
- First back-to-back titles in the same season since 1990-91 when UK would go on to win a school record four tournaments
- Runner-up finish at the Cardinal Cup
- Final-round lead in all four tournaments
- Nine individual top-10 showings
- 288.55 18-hole average, well ahead of the school record
- 28 rounds of par or better