Kentucky Women’s Golf Returns to Florida for the UCF Challenge
ORLANDO, Fla. – The Kentucky women’s golf team will head to warmer weather this weekend, traveling to Orlando, Florida, for the UCF Challenge on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday at the Eagle Creek Golf Club.
The tournament will be played as a three-day, 54-hole stroke-play format. The course is set at 6,349 yards with a par 72 and will be a shotgun start at 8:45 a.m. ET each day. Live scoring can be found at Golfstat.com.
Kentucky will field the same lineup used in its last stroke-play outing in the fall but in a different order: junior Jensen Castle, sophomore Laney Frye, junior María Villanueva Aperribay, fifth-year Rikke Svejgård Nielsen and junior Marissa Wenzler. Redshirt junior Ryan Bender will compete as an individual.
“We’re looking forward to heading back to familiar territory at Eagle Creek this weekend. It’s a nice track to start on and we have a familiar lineup with us to kick off the official spring season,” said head coach Golda Borst. “The entire team has worked really hard throughout this off season and I know they are prepared and ready to compete. It’s a long spring season ahead and we will take it in stride. This is a great first tournament to see where their games are as we work to get better this spring.”
The tournament will feature a total of 18 teams, including Southeastern Conference foe Auburn, which landed at No. 12 in the latest Women’s Golf Coaches Association poll. Other ranked teams playing this week are No. 7 Wake Forest, No. 8 Virginia, No. 25 UCF and Miami, which received votes.
Charleston, Houston, Iowa State, Kent State, Maryland, Michigan State, Minnesota, NC State, Ohio State, Old Dominion, Penn State and UNC-Wilmington round out the field competing in Orlando.
Kentucky returns to the Sunshine State after beginning the 2022 slate against Louisville in Naples on Jan. 18, which resulted in a 4-4 tie with the in-state rival. The Battle of the Bluegrass featured match play, the same style that both the SEC Championship and NCAA Championship Finals feature for teams that advance past the stroke-play rounds.
Four Wildcats also participated in the Lady Bulldog Individual Championships on Jan. 29-30 in Athens, Georgia, highlighted by Ryan Bender tying for seventh with a 5-over-par 149 after two rounds.
Kentucky resumes traditional team stroke play this week in Orlando for the first time this spring. All four tournaments in the fall were stroke play, with the Wildcats placing in the top five in two of those events. UK posted a pair of individual top-10 finishes and five top-20 showings during the fall campaign, finishing with a 54-hole average of 290.75 which would be the second-best in school history over a full season.
Individually, Castle is just ahead of her 2019-20 school-record pace by mere fractions with 71.75 strokes per round. She is tied for the team lead with six rounds of par or better, and all 12 of her rounds have been used for the team score. The 2021 U.S. Women’s Amateur champion led the way last semester with two top-20 finishes and a third-place showing at the Mason Rudolph Championship.
Frye, who made the 2021 SEC All-Freshman Team, also has six rounds of par or better and posted a 72.9 stroke average to rank second on the team. Villanueva Aperribay averaged 73.4 strokes per rounds, and Wenzler (even-par 216) and Svejgård Nielsen (2-over-par 218) carded two of the better 54-hole scores of the fall.
Eagle Creek Golf Club will play at 6,349 yards this week with a par of 72. Designed by world-renowned golf course architects Ron Garl and Howard Swan, Eagle Creek is Florida’s first golf course to use the technologically advanced Mini-Verde grass, resulting in exceptionally fast and vibrant greens.
This is not the Wildcats’ first visit to Eagle Creek, as the same five players in Castle, Frye, Svejgård Nielsen, Villanueva Aperribay and Wenzler played in the UCF Challenge in 2021. Castle and Villanueva Aperribay tied for 19th at 3-over par a season ago.
As a team, Kentucky finished seventh in last year’s event after carding a three-round total of 878 (14-over par). After a 13-over-par 301 in the final round, UK fired a 289 in the opening round and an even-par 288 on the second day to produce its best 54-hole total and best finish at that point in the season.
The Wildcats’ 2022 showing will mark their eighth appearance in the UCF Challenge since 2011. Kentucky has finished in the top 10 on five occasions during that span, including three times placing in the top five.