Women's Golf

Jensen Castle Begins Play in U.S. Women’s Open on Thursday

by Eric Lindsey

SAN FRANCISCO – Kentucky women’s golfer Jensen Castle will compete against the world’s best players this week at the 2021 U.S. Women’s Open.
 
Castle, who recently completed her sophomore season at UK, qualified in May for the world’s premier golf championship during a sectional qualifier at Shannopin Country Club in Pittsburgh. She defeated professional Rachel Rohanna on the second playoff hole to clinch one of two spots from the Pittsburgh sectional. Overall, she shot 1-under par in the 36-hole qualifier.
 
Castle is one of 31 amateurs in the 156-player field.
 
“I’m just going to try and have fun and enjoy every moment of playing against a ton of great players, the best in the world,” Castle said. “I hope to learn from them and see what I need to do in the future to put myself back in this situation.”
 
Play will begin Thursday at 10 a.m. ET at The Olympic Club in San Francisco and conclude Sunday night. Each of the four rounds will feature 18 holes.
 
Castle will tee off Thursday at 3:45 p.m. ET (12:45 p.m. local time in San Francisco) alongside professionals Sarah Burnham and Ruoning Yin. That group will be the first tee time on Friday, at 10 a.m. ET (7 a.m. PT).
 
Teammate Laney Frye, a freshman on this past year’s Kentucky team, will caddie for Castle. UK head coach Golda Borst is also in San Francisco as a spectator.
 
Following the first two rounds, golfers outside the top 60 (plus ties) are cut from the field.
 
NBC, the GOLF Channel and Peacock will televise the championship over the four rounds. Live streaming will be available on USWomensOpen.com, the U.S. Women’s Open mobile app and the USGA streaming app.
 
Castle’s qualification last month in Pittsburgh was a thriller. After Castle fired a 2-under-par 69 in the first 18 holes, it was essentially a 10-person battle for the coveted two qualifying spots on the second 18. Ten women, including Kentucky teammate Marissa Wenzler, were within five shots of one another, and it came down to the very end to determine the final spot after Allie White separated herself with a score of 5-under par.
 
Castle was among the early finishers and had to sweat out the outcome with several of her competitors still on the course. At one point, Wenzler took over sole possession of second place but bogeyed six of the final 11 holes to fall out of contention and finish three strokes back of the second-place tie.
 
Castle thought she may have missed her opportunity with three bogeys on her final four holes, but as pressure mounted, the top of the leaderboard shuffled and Castle found herself with a chance at a crowning achievement. Needing two putts to qualify for the U.S. Women’s Open on the second playoff hole, Castle calmy two-putted to become the second Wildcat in the 11-year Borst era to qualify for the national championship. Anna Hack (2015-17) qualified in 2016. Former UK women’s golfer Mallory Blackwelder (2007-09) competed in the 2015 U.S. Women’s Open but did not play for Borst.
 
The sectional qualifier in Pittsburgh was one of 22 U.S. Women’s Open qualifying tournaments that fed into the 76th U.S. Women’s Open field. The U.S. Women’s Open is open to female professionals and amateurs with a Handicap Index not exceeding 2.4.
 
Since U.S. Women’s Open qualifying began in 1976, two champions have been crowned from the thousands who have attempted to play their way into the championship. Hilary Lunke became the first qualifier to win the U.S. Women’s Open in 2003 with an 18-hole playoff victory at Pumpkin Ridge Golf Club. Birdie Kim became the only other qualifier to win a U.S. Women’s Open with her stunning victory in 2005 at Cherry Hills Country Club.
 
The 76th U.S. Women’s Open will be the 11th USGA championship to be played on the Lake Course at The Olympic Club, including five U.S. Men’s Opens (1955, 1966, 1987, 1998 and 2012). The course will play at 6,486 yards, a par 71.
 
The championship began in 1946 and some of its notable winners include Babe Didrikson Zaharias, Betsy Rawls, Mickey Wright, Hollis Stacy, Amy Alcott, Meg Mallon, Annika Sorenstam, Se Ri Pak, Juli Inkster, Cristie Kerr, Paula Creamer, Inbee Park and Michelle Wie West.
 
Castle and the Wildcats just completed a breakthrough season. UK qualified for the NCAA Championship finals for the first time since 1992 and tied for 18th place at the national championship. The Wildcats were within a few strokes of qualifying for the final round of stroke play after carding the best 54-hole score at the NCAA Championships final in the program’s sixth all-time appearance.
 
Castle was key in the 2020-21 success. She was third on the team with a 74.5 stroke average and two top-20 finishes. UK used 30 of Castle’s 33 rounds this season towards the team score as the Wildcats went on to post the third-best scoring average in program history. In Castle’s freshman season, she made the All-Southeastern Conference First Team and set a single-season program record with a 71.88 strokes per round.
 
Although the U.S. Women’s Open will be the most high-profile tournament she has been a part of in her young career, Castle has significant major tournament experience. One of the top prospects out of high school in 2019, Castle has played in a number of major national tournaments outside her Kentucky career, including last year’s 120th U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship. She teamed up with Wenzler this spring at the U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball and made it to the quarterfinals of the match-play portion of the national tournament.
 
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.
 

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