UK Women’s Golf Heads South for Mason Rudolph Championship
FRANKLIN, Tenn. – After opening the season earlier this month with a ninth-place finish at the Wolverine Invitational, the Kentucky women’s golf team will head south this week to Franklin, Tennessee, for its second tournament of the young season at the Mason Rudolph Championship.
Last season’s familiar five of juniors María Villanueva Aperribay and Jensen Castle, fifth-year senior Rikke Rikke Svejgård Nielsen, sophomore Laney Frye, and junior Marissa Wenzler are in the lineup this weekend. The five were responsible for UK’s breakthrough NCAA Championship run last season.
Wenzler, a key piece of the quintet, did not play in the season opener at Michigan. With that fivesome fully intact again, the Wildcats are hoping to put a slow start to the 2021-22 season behind them and rekindle last spring’s run – and a strong summer individually – this weekend.
It will be a challenging task for UK in one of the best tournaments of the fall collegiate slate. With a steady diet of Southeastern Conference teams – seven in all – five of the 15 teams in the field are ranked in the latest Women’s Golf Coaches Association Coaches Poll
Play begins Friday with the first of three 18-hole rounds at the Vanderbilt Legends Club North Course (par 72, 6,475 yards). UK’s first tee time is Friday is at 9:45 a.m. ET.
Live scoring will be available throughout the tournament at Golfstat.com.
“We are looking forward to competing again this weekend and it’s good to be back at the Mason Rudolph,” UK head coach Golda Borst said. “It’s been a few years since we’ve played the North Course and I think it will set up well for our team.
“We have an experienced group and we will continue to focus on playing our game and improving on our performance goals this week. It’s another great opportunity for us to compete at a high level and to stay focused on our process.”
Named after Tennessee golfing legend Mason Rudolph – who after a 21-year professional golf career joined the Commodore program as the head coach for five seasons and then served as the director of golf – the tournament began in 2001. UK has made five previous appearances in the event, including three straight from 2012 to 2014, but this weekend’s competition will mark the Wildcats’ first in the tournament since 2014.
Kentucky tied for ninth at the Wolverine Invitational earlier this month. Villanueva Aperribay posted her fourth top-20 finish in a UK uniform and Castle tied for 29th, but Kentucky was unable to compete for the crown on a challenging layout at the University of Michigan Golf Course.
Despite the slow start, expectations remain high for UK, which is coming off its first appearance in the NCAA Championship Finals since 1992. The five Wildcats who qualified for and competed in the national championship in Scottsdale, Arizona, are all back this season. Those returns include Castle, who won the U.S. Women’s Amateur in improbable fashion and followed it up with key contributions in Team USA’s Curtis Cup victory in Wales.
Villanueva Aperribay showed little rust in Michigan with a score of 5-over par, tying her for 14th place. She was one of Kentucky’s best performers during last spring’s magical run with four of the teams lowest scores of the season – all 69s – and a fifth-place showing at the NCAA Columbus Regional.
Castle opened the 2021-22 collegiate campaign with a pair of 1-over-par 72s on the 36-hole opening day, but she could not hold on in the final round of the Wolver Invitational and finished at 8-over par. The junior from West Columbia, South Carolina, has a busy slate coming up. She will play in the LPGA’s Cognizant Founders Cup in early October after earning a special exemption into the 132-player field made up predominantly of professionals.
Svejgård Nielsen had to withdraw from the Wolverine Invitational in the final round due to illness. She opened the tournament with a 74 and 76 in the first two rounds. Svejgård Nielsen, the 2021 Southeastern Conference Scholar-Athlete of the Year, is the most experienced golfer on the 201-22 roster with 28 collegiate events, four top-10 finishes and 10 top-20 showings.
Frye got off to a slow start in the season opener in the first two rounds but bounced back in the finale with Kentucky’s first under-par round of the season, a 1-under-par 70 in the third round. Frye posted 13 rounds of par or better in her freshman campaign, the second most in school history. She led the Wildcats in stroke average in her first season as a Wildcat and earned SEC All-Freshman Team honors.
Wenzler was unable to compete in the Wolverine Invitational with an illness. Having her back will add another weapon to an already strong UK lineup. Wenzler was Kentucky’s second-best performer at the NCAA Championship Finals in the spring and she enjoyed a dominating run at the Women’s Western Amateur this summer by winning both the stroke-play and match-play portions of the event.
This weekend’s appearance will mark the second of four fall tournaments for the Wildcats.
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.