UK Women’s Golf Begins 2021-22 Season at Wolverine Invitational
ANN ARBOR, Mich. – The first chapter of the 2021-22 Kentucky’s women’s golf season begins Monday and Tuesday at the 2021 Wolverine Invitational. If all goes according to plan, the Wildcats could bookend their story with a return visit to the University of Michigan Golf Course – one of four NCAA regional sites in 2022 – later in the season.
The tournament begins Monday in Ann Arbor, Michigan, with 36 holes in a 16-team field that includes Illinois, Indiana, Iowa State, No. 25 Kent State, Louisville, No. 24 Michigan, Nebraska, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Toledo, Washington, No. 17 Virginia, No. 20 Virginia Tech and Xavier. The final round will be played Tuesday.
Play will begin on both days at 8:45 a.m. with a shotgun start. Live scoring is available throughout the tournament at Golfstat.com.
“We are beyond excited to get on the road this weekend,” UK head coach Golda Borst said. “The summer has flown by and our group is as motivated as ever to kick things off in Michigan. We have some familiar faces in the lineup as well as some new ones and I’m excited to see what this group will do in the next few days.”
Kentucky enters the season with high hopes after rising above the adversity of the pandemic-stricken season in 2020-21. The Wildcats reached the NCAA Championship Finals for the first time in 29 years after an electric performance in the NCAA Columbus Regional, where the team finished fourth in the field of 18.
Following the historic 2020-21 campaign, the Wildcats have even bigger dreams this coming season. Ranked No. 23 in the preseason Women’s Golf Coaches Association preseason poll, UK returns all five players from last season’s NCAA Championship lineup, including the 2021 U.S. Women’s Amateur Champion, junior Jensen Castle.
Four of those five players – Castle, fifth-year senior Rikke Svejgård Nielsen, sophomore Laney Frye and junior María Villanueva Aperribay – will be in the lineup Monday and Tuesday. Fifth-year senior Sarah Fite will round out the first group of the year, and redshirt junior Ryan Bender will play as an individual.
With a course rating of 72.8 and a slope of 135 off the tees, the University of Michigan Golf Course provides a unique challenge due to its creative layout. The course will be set up as a par 71 at 6,232 yards in length.
The core of Castle, Frye, Svejgård Nielsen and Villanueva Aperribay played in nine total tournaments together last season. Their best finish was at the Liz Murphey Collegiate Classic in March, coming in third out of 18 teams.
The success from this past spring season has raised the bar for Kentucky. After reaching the NCAA Championship Finals for the first time since 1992, the team not only wants to return to Scottsdale, Arizona, the site of the national championship, it wants to be one of the contenders. The journey to get there starts in Michigan with the first of nine regular-season tournaments the Wildcats will play in.
Castle headlines the lineup after a sensational summer. She became the first golfer in school history to win the U.S. Women’s Amateur and was a part of the winning USA Curtis Cup squad a few weeks later. Castle has played a pronounced role in her two seasons at Kentucky, setting the single-season school record as a freshman before contributing to the team’s score in 30 of 33 available rounds last season.
The most experienced player on the team, Svejgård Nielsen played a key role down the stretch with three top-20 showings late in the season, including a fifth-place showing at the NCAA Columbus Regional. The Denmark became just the third winner in school history to win Southeastern Conference Scholar-Athlete of the Year.
Frye was named to the 2021 SEC All-Freshman Team. The two-time Kentucky Miss Golf winner posted an average of 73.5 strokes per round, which is near the top for the school’s single season record. Her two top-10 finishes led the team, including a sixth-place result at the Blessings Invitational.
Villanueva Aperribay posted the second-best average on the team last season, shooting 74.3 a round. Her best performance was a 6-under-par finish during the SEC Championship, tied for 17th among all players. This past summer, she represented her home country of Spain and helped propel her team to a seventh-place finish in European Ladies’ Team Championship at Royal Country Down Golf Club in Northern Ireland.
While she did not appear in a tournament in 2020-21, Fite has proven in the past that she can score. In the shortened 2019-20 season, she appeared in four events, posting career bests in stroke average at 75.3 and 18-hole and 54-hole bests as well. She placed in the top-20 in two tournaments, which included one top-10 finish.
The Wolverine Invitational will mark Bender’s first collegiate appearance since the 2019-20 season. That year, she played in two events, shooting a 226 in the Bettie Lou Evans Invitational and tied for 25th in the MSU Greenbrier Invitational.
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.