Kentucky Women’s Golf Open Spring Season at UCF Challenge
ORLANDO, Fla. – The Kentucky women’s golf team resumes its 2020-21 year after its midseason break for a five-tournament regular-season spring slate.
The Wildcats will tee it up for the first time in nearly three months on Sunday in the UCF Challenge. The first of three rounds at Eagle Creek Golf Club in Orlando, Florida, begins at 8 a.m. and concludes Tuesday.
The tournament will mark the first in a busy spring schedule that features five regular-season tournaments in a two-month span before postseason play.
Sophomores Jensen Castle and María Villanueva Aperribay, freshman Laney Frye, Rikke Svejgård Nielsen, and sophomore Marissa Wenzler will compete for the Wildcats this week. Four of the five Wildcats, Villanueva Aperribay being the exception, played in all three events in the fall.
“We are looking forward to kicking off the season at UCF this weekend,” UK head coach Golda Borst said. “Even though none of the current players have been to this event, it’s one that we are familiar with from previous years and we’re excited to head back to Orlando and a familiar track in Eagle Creek Golf Club.
“We have a young but experienced lineup with us. Our entire team has been incredibly motivated during this offseason and we are prepared and ready so start competing again. They have all been working very hard on their individual games, so we are looking forward to getting out there again and competing hard.”
Teams will tee off holes 1 and 10 starting as early Sunday as 8 a.m. The Wildcats will be in the first groups and tee off No. 10. Live scoring will be available for the three-day tournament at GolfStat.com.
The SEC approved league membership to play in tournaments within the league footprint in the spring. To keep COVID-19 testing protocols consistent, UK will only play in tournaments hosted by other league schools or that have similar testing protocols. The UCF Challenge is the lone tournament hosted by a nonconference school that Kentucky will participate in.
The UCF Challenge features a big field with 17 teams. For most of the teams, outside of Kentucky, Arkansas and Iowa State, this will mark their first tournament of the 2020-21 season because of the pandemic.
The Wildcats should be battled tested for the spring after an extremely difficult fall schedule. Following SEC COVID-19 guidelines for competition, UK played in three conference-based tournaments in the fall, meaning the Wildcats played against some of the best teams in the country.
Kentucky placed no better than eighth in the three tournaments but begins the spring ranked 17th in Golfstat’s rankings from the stiff competition.
Castle posted a 74.6 stroke average in the fall but placed outside the top 20 in all three tournaments. The sophomore will try to find her freshman form that set a new single-season school record scoring average at 71.9.
Villanueva Aperribay will make her second appearance as a Wildcat after transferring from Augusta. She played in the final event of the fall, the Liz Murphey Fall Collegiate Classic, and tied for 38th with a score of 9-over par.
Frye, just a freshman, was the top Kentucky golfer in the fall. She recorded a team-best 73.9 stroke average and was the lone Wildcat to finish in the top 10 or top 20, tying for sixth in her college debut at the Blessings Collegiate Invitational.
Svejgård Nielsen battled inconsistencies in the fall but is one of the most accomplished golfers in the UK roster. She owns seven career top-20 collegiate finishes and three top-10 finishes. She is the only Wildcat with an individual college championship.
Wenzler rounds out the UK lineup and finished the fall with a 22nd-place showing at the Liz Murphey Fall Collegiate Classic. She posted the third-best single-season stroke average a season ago as a freshman.
Eagle Creek Golf Club will play at 6,349 yards this week with a par of 72. Designed by world-renowned golf course architects Ron Garl and Howard Swan, Eagle Creek is Florida’s first golf course to use the technologically advanced Mini-Verde grass, resulting in exceptionally fast and vibrant greens.
The Wildcats last played in the UCF Challenge in February 2017, where former UK star Isabelle Johansson recorded one of the lowest 54-hole totals in school history, an 8-under-par 208. Kentucky was a frequent visitor in the UCF Challenge through the 2017 tournament. UK had appeared in the UCF Challenge six times in seven seasons from 2011 to 2017, finishing in the top five three times in that span.
Kentucky has high expectations for the most important part of its season with a talented and deep roster. Despite the inconsistencies in the fall, UK returns the bulk of the 2019-20 team that won two championships, placed second in another, set team and individual scoring records, and posted 10 top-10 and 20 top-20 individual showings.
For the latest on the Kentucky women’s golf team, follow the team on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, as well as on the web at UKathletics.com.