Four Wildcats to Compete in U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball
CARROLLTON, Texas – Four Kentucky women’s golfers will compete in the U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Tournament starting this weekend.
Two of the 64 teams in the national tournament will be made up of Wildcats with sophomores Jensen Castle and Marissa Wenzler forming one team and freshman Laney Frye and sophomore María Villanueva Aperribay constructing the other.
The two Kentucky duos will compete Saturday and Sunday in stroke play at Maridoe Golf Club (6,349 yards, par 72) in Carrollton, Texas. The top 32 teams will move on to match play Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
A championship team will be crowned Wednesday with the two individual winners earning a 10-year exemption from qualifying for the future U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball tournaments, exemption for each player to the 2021 U.S. Women’s Amateur, and exemptions into the 2021 U.S. Girls, Junior, U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur and U.S. Senior Women’s Amateur (if age eligible) – in addition to a gold medal and the U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball Trophy for a year.
The four-ball format, also known as best ball, involves two-person teams where each player on the team plays their own ball throughout the round. The player with the lowest score on the hole (“best ball”) out of the two-person tandem serves as the team’s score.
The two Kentucky teams qualified for the national event in October at Lexington Country Club. Castle and Wenzler won the qualifier with a 4-under-par 68. Frye and Villanueva Aperribay nabbed the second spot with a 3-under-par 69, edging out yet another Kentucky pair, fifth-year seniors Josephine Chang and Sarah Shipley, by a stroke. There were 29 qualifying sites.
This is the sixth year of the event, which began in 2015. The 2020 tournament was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 2021 run for the Wildcats will not be the first appearance in school history. Shipley and Chang teamed up in 2017 after completing their freshman seasons at UK and advanced to the round of 16.
Castle has previous success in the four-ball format as well. She teamed up with Wake Forest’s Rachel Kuehn last summer to win the 43rd Carolinas Women’s Four-Ball Championship. The duo torched the 26-team field by six shots with a score of 16-under par, a tournament scoring record.
The national competition comes in the middle of Kentucky’s postseason. Despite an unsatisfying 12th-place finish at the Southeastern Conference Championship last week, UK beat its previous league tournament 54-hole record score by 20 shots.
Kentucky will try to take the momentum into NCAA Regionals, which the Wildcats are all but assured of making with a current Golfstat ranking of 35th. The 2021 field will be announced on Wednesday on the Golf Channel with NCAA Regionals taking place May 10-12.
Castle is second on the team with a 74.0 stroke average and two top-20 finishes. Although she has been unable to match her historic freshman season, when she set the school’s single-season stroke average record and placed in the top 20 in five of six events, she has finished 33rd or better in seven of eight events this season. Castle has remained consistent with 26 of her 27 rounds going to the team score.
Castle has plenty of major USGA national-level experience. She is competing in her fourth USGA championship, including reaching the round of 32 at the 2020 U.S. Women’s Amateur.
Wenzler was also in the U.S. Women’s Amateur and reached the round of 64. She has been unable to duplicate her freshman season, when she posted the third-best single-season stroke average in program history, but the potential is there for Wenzler and Castle to make a lethal combo. Wenzler placed in the top 20 three times in six events last season and enjoyed a sensational summer that included two championships and two runner-up finishes.
Frye has been Kentucky’s best player to this point. She leads the Wildcats in stroke average (73.5), top-10 showings (two), top-20 performances (three) and rounds of par or better. Frye has placed as high as sixth place at the Blessings Collegiate Invitational and contributed 24 of her 27 scores this season to the team effort. She posted a score of 1-under par at the SEC Championship last week.
Villanueva Aperribay is playing the best golf of any Wildcat heading into the Four-Ball Championship. She tied for 17th at the SEC Championship with one of the best 54-hole scores in school history, a 6-under-par 210. The Spaniard carded back-to-back 69s to open the event in Birmingham, Alabama, and finished with a 72. The low round on the season for UK is a 69, done five times; Villanueva Aperribay has four of them.
Next week, beginning as early as Monday, eight Wildcats will participate in qualifiers for the 76th U.S. Women’s Open. Shipley, senior Rikke Svejgård Nielsen, and juniors Ryan Bender and Casey Ott will compete in St. Louis; Castle and Wenzler will be in Pittsburgh; Frye will head to Mendota Heights, Minn.; and senior Sarah Fite will compete in Atlanta.
The U.S. Women’s Open Championship is open to female professionals and amateurs with a handicap index not exceeding 2.4. The U.S. Open will take place June 3-6 at the Olympic Club in San Francisco.
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.