COLUMBUS, Ohio – After a banner bounce-back season – one in which the Wildcats combined youth and experience to break records, win individual championships, and post a number of top-three finishes – the Kentucky women’s golf team will head north to Columbus, Ohio, this week for NCAA Regionals.
The Wildcats, one of 72 teams in the NCAA Regional fields and one of 18 in the Columbus Regional, will tee off Monday, May 8, at 9:54 a.m. from the 10th hole the Scarlet Course at the Ohio State University Golf Club. The regional will be a three-day, 54-hole format.
The goal for Kentucky this week is clear: finish in the top six and advance to the next round of the NCAA postseason.
The NCAA Women’s Golf Championship is made up of four regionals that consist of 18 teams and six individuals each. The four regional sites are preliminary rounds of the NCAA Championships. The low six teams and the low three individuals not on those teams (for a total of 24 teams and 12 individuals) will advance to the national championships, to be held May 19-24 at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, Illinois.
“We are excited to be in Columbus this week for an opportunity to compete at the highest level in college golf,” head coach Golda Johansson Borst said. “This is what we play for all year, and although we have played some good golf this year, we haven't put our best rounds together just yet. I strongly believe that we have some great golf ahead of us and I feel confident that our team can handle this golf course.”
The Wildcats nearly made the NCAA Championships in 2015 – UK’s last NCAA appearance – when Borst’s team placed seventh at the South Bend Regional. Kentucky will be looking to make its first NCAA Championships appearance since 1992 and the sixth in school history.
Getting there won’t be easy. The Columbus Regional boasts five conference champions – including Southeastern Conference champion Florida – and six teams ranked in the top 25 of Golfstat’s rankings. Unseasonably cool temperatures could also play a factor, at least for the first two rounds. Temperatures are only supposed to be in the 40s on Monday and Tuesday morning when the Wildcats tee off.
“This regional site is tough but I believe in our young team,” Borst said. “We have prepared well and I know they are ready to compete this week.”
Fans can follow along with live scoring all week at Golfstat.com and on the official Kentucky women’s golf social media channels, @KentuckyWGolf. Post-round coverage will be available at UKathletics.com.
Borst will take a talented and experienced group with her to Columbus with juniors Isabelle Johansson and Grace Rose, freshmen Josephine Chang and Sarah Shipley, and sophomore Claire Carlin getting the nod for the postseason lineup. They’ve combined for 39 event appearances and 109 rounds this season.
And for as young as this team can be at times, it does have some postseason experience. The Wildcats’ top two golfers, Johansson and Rose, both played in UK’s last NCAA Regional appearance in 2015.
Though the Wildcats weren’t able to advance past the South Bend Regional as a team that year, Johansson did as an individual. Igniting the start of what’s been a sensational career to this point, Johansson – then just a freshman – tied for 10th at the 2015 South Bend Regional and qualified for the NCAA Championships after a thrilling three-hole playoff. She became the first Wildcat to qualify for the NCAA Championships as an individual since Heather Kraus in 1998.
Johansson will try to not only return to the national championships again this season but also lead the team with her. She’s got the credentials to do so. The junior from Sala, Sweden, lead the Wildcats in scoring average (73.3), top-20 finishes (six), top-10 finishes (three), lowest 18-hole round of the season (64), lowest 54-round of the season (208), and rounds of par or better (11). She tied for first at the season opening Minnesota Invitational, tied the 18-hole score record earlier this season at the Ron Moore Women’s Intercollegiate and is on pace to record the best single-season stroke average in school history.
If Johansson holds the title as the most accomplished Kentucky women’s golfer of the 2016-17 season, Rose enters this week with the most momentum. The junior from Nicholasville, Kentucky, was UK’s best golfer at the SEC Championship two weeks ago in Birmingham, Alabama, where she fired a 54-hole career best of 214 (2-under par).
Rose also appeared in the 2015 South Bend Regional as a freshman. Now a steady and consistent junior, she’s tied with Johansson for the best stroke average of the spring and has more rounds (six) of par or better this spring than any other Wildcat.
Chang, as a freshman, will be making her first career NCAA appearance, but she’s displayed the confidence and game of a veteran to be on this week’s stage. Chang has appeared in nine of UK’s 10 events this season, and her eight rounds of par or better is second only to Johansson.
Shipley, also a freshman, has appeared in all 10 events this season. She’s coming off arguably her best performance of the season at the SEC Championship, where she tied her best 54-hole score of the year with a 224. Shipley also won the individual bracket at the East & West Match Play Challenge in the fall.
Carlin is the least experienced of the bunch, having made just three appearances this season, but she boasts potential. The sophomore from Keller, Texas, fired a 3-under 69 in the final round of the Clover Cup in Mesa, Arizona.
As a team, the Wildcats boast four top-five finishes in its nine stroke-play tournament format events, plus a win over Louisville in the Battle of the Bluegrass. The Wildcats also shot three rounds under par as a team this season – including a school record 277 (11-under par) in the final round of the Ron Moore Women’s Intercollegiate – and are in the running for the best team stroke average in program history.
This is UK’s sixth NCAA Regional appearance in seven seasons under Borst.
This week’s Columbus Regional will take place at the Scarlet Course at the Ohio State University Golf Club. Recently renovated by Jack Nicklaus in 2006, the Scarlet Course will play at 6,416 yards this week, a par 72.