Jensen Castle Leads Wildcats on First Day of Wolverine Invitational
ANN ARBOR, Mich. – The Kentucky women’s golf team opened its 2021-22 season on Monday with a 36-hole marathon and mixed results.
At times the Wildcats played like the team that qualified for the NCAA Championship Finals last season and enjoyed a big summer individually; at other times UK was plagued by inconsistency that one would expect for the first tournament of season.
Through the first two rounds of the Wolverine Invitational, UK is in 10th place with a score of 22-over par. The Wildcats fired an 8-over-par 292 in the morning round but couldn’t sustain the momentum and followed up with a 14-over-par 298 in the afternoon.
Michigan, the tournament host and a fellow 2021 NCAA Championship Finals qualifier, took advantage of its home track at the University of Michigan Golf Course (par 71, 6,232 yards) with a two-round score of 6-under par. The Wolverines lead Virginia by 12 shots and are the only school in the 16-team field in red numbers.
Picking up where she left off this summer when she won the 2021 U.S. Women’s Amateur and helped Team USA to a Curtis Cup victory, junior Jensen Castle posted a pair of 72s and sits in a tie for 12th place at 2-over par overall. Iowa State’s Liyana Durisic and Michigan’s Mikaela Schulz lead the 90-player pack at 4-under par.
The final round begins Tuesday at 8:45 a.m. with a shotgun start. Live scoring will continue to be available at Golfstat.com.
“We didn’t quite have the start that we wanted to today,” UK head coach Golda Borst said. “We gave away a lot of shots throughout the day and didn’t make enough birdies to make up for them. We’re looking forward to getting back on the course tomorrow morning and getting back after it.”
The Wildcats enter the season with arguably the biggest expectations in school history. Kentucky, ranked No. 23 in the preseason Women’s Golf Coaches Association preseason poll, returns all five players who qualified for the national championship stage in May. After a breakthrough spring, several individuals enjoyed strong summers, including Castle’s historic win at the U.S. Women’s Amateur and Marissa Wenzler’s dominant championship week at the Women’s Western Amateur.
UK’s biggest goals will have to wait until the spring, but getting to the postseason starts now, and Monday’s opening round was the first step in that long journey – one that could end up right back in Michigan eight months from now. The University of Michigan Golf Course is one of four sites for the NCAA Regionals this season.
Castle appears to like the track after a strong start to the season. Her morning round was relatively stress free with 14 pars, two birdies, a bogey and a double bogey. Twice she got to 1-under par but a double bogey late in the round spoiled her chance for her first under-par round of the season.
The afternoon 18 required a resiliency that Castle displayed time and time again during her U.S. Women’s Amateur run. After rolling in a par on the opening hole, Castle bogeyed four straight holes to get as high as 5-over par on the day. The South Carolina native settled down with four straight pars and then got some strokes back with three birdies over a five-hole stretch on the back nine. She played the final 13 holes of the day at 3-uner par.
Junior María Villanueva Aperribay is just two shots back of Castle at 4-over par. She matched Castle in the morning with a 72 with two birdies and only three bogeys. Back-to-back birdies on 15 and 16 turned the momentum and she closed with a 74.
Fifth-year seniors Rikke Svejgård Nielsen and Sarah Fite are tied for 49th at 8-over par. Their rounds were identical on Monday with 74s to open the season and 76s in the second round. Svejgård Nielsen, the 2021 Southeastern Conference Scholar-Athlete of the Year, is the most experienced Wildcat on the roster, but Fite was making her first collegiate appearance since February 2020.
Sophomore Laney Frye was slow out of the gates to open the season. The 2021 SEC All-Freshman selection carded a 79 in her first round of the season, which tied her highest score at Kentucky, and followed with a 77. She is tied for 72nd.
Playing as an individual only, redshirt junior Ryan Bender is in 77th place at 15-over par. Playing in her first tournament since the fall of 2019, Bender, fired a 77 in the morning and an 80 in the afternoon.
There are five preseason WGCA ranked teams in this week’s field, including the Wildcats. No. 17 Virginia, No. 20 Virginia Tech, No. 24 Michigan and No. 25 Kent State are also ranked.
This week’s tournament is one of four fall tournaments for Kentucky.
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.