Kentucky Women’s Golf Selected for 2021 NCAA Regionals Field
LEXINGTON, Ky. – The Kentucky women’s golf team is headed to the NCAA postseason for the seventh time in 11 seasons under head coach Golda Borst.
The Wildcats are one of 72 teams to make the 2021 NCAA Division I Women’s Golf Championships field, which was announced Wednesday afternoon on the GOLF Channel. UK will compete in the Columbus Regional at the Scarlet Course at the Ohio State University Golf Club in Columbus, Ohio, May 10-12.
The Wildcats, the No. 10 seed in the Columbus Regional, have made the tournament as a team for the for the 18th time in program history but the first time since 2017 (Leonie Bettel qualified as an individual in 2018 and there was no tournament in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic).
“We are beyond excited to be heading to Columbus for regionals,” UK head coach Golda Borst said. “I know the Scarlet course well, and does Marissa Wenzler, who is from Centerville, Ohio. She has played quite a bit up there in years past so we will be leaning on her experience as we prepare for the tournament. The anticipation of finding out where we would get sent is now over. Now we can prepare and get ready to compete in a couple of weeks and that’s a great feeling.”
UK is one of three Southeastern Conference teams in the 18-team field in the Columbus Regional and one of 12 league teams overall to make NCAA Regionals, another sign of the conference’s strength. The SEC captured two of the four No. 1 seeds with South Carolina (Louisville Regional) and LSU (Baton Rouge Regional) earning the coveted spots.
The Columbus Regional boasts seven conference champions, six teams ranked in the top 25 of Golfstat’s rankings and two in the top 10.
The NCAA Regionals are made up of 26 automatic qualifiers and 46 at-large bids. With a deep and talented roster and against an extremely difficult and SEC-based schedule, the Wildcats snagged one of the automatic bids.
Kentucky was also in the Columbus Regional in its last NCAA appearance in 2017. UK placed 16th in that event with current fifth-year seniors Josephine Chang and Sarah Shipley competing in the event as freshmen.
The Scarlet Course at the Ohio State University Golf Club is arguably the toughest track of the four regionals. Renovated by Jack Nicklaus in 2006 and the host of major tournaments on an almost annual basis, the course was lengthened and the bunkers were redesigned to add to an already stiff test. With weather conditions often a factor in Columbus at this time of the year, the Scarlet Course offers the type of challenge that usually produces the very best teams at the end of the regional.
The NCAA Women’s Golf Championship is made up of four regionals that consist of 18 teams and six individuals each. The three other 2021 regional sites include the Louisville Regional, the Baton Rouge Regional and the Stanford Regional.
The four regional sites are preliminary rounds of the NCAA Championships. The low six teams and the low three individuals not on those teams (for a total of 24 teams and 12 individuals) will advance to the national championships, to be held May 21-26 at Grayhawk Golf Club in Scottsdale, Arizona.
UK’s best NCAA Regional finish under Borst was seventh place at the 2015 South Bend Regional, where the Wildcats just barely missed on qualifying for the NCAA Championships. The Wildcats will be looking to make their first NCAA Championships appearance since 1992 and their sixth in school history.
Kentucky, ranked No. 37 in the latest Golfstat rankings, is working on a strong season. With the majority of the team back from the 2019-20 squad that set a number of new records, including team stroke average, this group is averaging 295.85 strokes per round, which would rank behind only the 2019-20 record.
UK has played its best golf down the stretch with impressive displays of potential in each of the last three events.
Against SEC competition and a few other nonconference teams at the Liz Murphey Collegiate Classic, UK rallied from a 15th-place standing after round one to finish in a season-best third place, behind only a pair of the top teams in the country.
Two weeks later, at the LSU Tiger Golf Classic, Kentucky tied for sixth with another comeback against league foes. And though the Wildcats failed to qualify for match play at the SEC Championship in mid-April, Kentucky turned in a 1-over-par 865, one of the best 54-hole scores in school history and UK’s best SEC Championship score – by 20 strokes – in the 40 seasons of the event.
Five Wildcats – senior Rikke Svejgård Nielsen, sophomores Jensen Castle, María Villanueva Aperribay and Marissa Wenzler, and freshman Laney Frye – have played the majority of the rounds in 2020-21, each playing a key part in this season’s success.
Frye has led the way in stroke average (73.5), top-10 finishes (two), top-20 showings (three) and rounds of par or better (11).
Castle, who set the school’s single-season stroke average last year, is averaging 74.0 strokes per round and has contributed to the team score in 26 of 27 rounds.
Villanueva Aperribay has carded four of the Wildcats’ five lowest 18-holes scores this season – all 69s – with three of them coming in her last seven rounds.
Svejgård Nielsen has played her best golf of the season down the stretch after a slow start to the season by setting season-low 54-hole scores in each of her last three tournaments, including a 2-over-par 218 at the SEC Championship.
Although Wenzler has been unable to match her freshman season when she recorded the third-best stroke average in single-season history, she has four rounds of par or better in 2020-21.
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.
Waiting to see “Kentucky” show up on that screen!
— Kentucky W. Golf (@KentuckyWGolf) April 28, 2021