UK golfers Ryan Bender (left), Marissa Wenzler (center) and Jensen Castle (right) played at Golfweek Myrtle Beach Collegiate. (UK Athletics Photo)
MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. – Underscoring terrific freshman seasons and further validating the notion that the future is bright for Kentucky women’s golf, rising sophomores Marissa Wenzler and Jensen Castle finished in the top five of the college-heavy Golfweek Myrtle Beach Collegiate.
Playing against many of their college peers, Wenzler and Castle were among the top performers at this week’s 41-player field at the Dye Club at Barefoot Resort (par 72, 6,151 yards). With a final-round 68 – the best 18-hole score during the three-day tournament – Wenzler climbed three spots Friday to finish in second place at 1-under par, just two shots behind Taylor Roberts.
Castle was not far behind with a 54-hole total of 2-over par, good enough for fourth place.
Also in the tournament was Wildcat Ryan Bender. The rising junior bounced back after a tough first round and finished in 32nd at 28-over par.
Wenzler and Castle entered the day in the hunt but in need of strong rounds to make a comeback. Wenzler started the round seven shots back of Roberts but made things interesting down the stretch with a near perfect round.
With five birdies and just one bogey, Wenzler closed the gap and applied pressure to Roberts, who will head to Florida State this fall as a freshman.
Castle started the third round five shots back and was off to a promising start with birdies on holes five and six, but she faltered down the stretch when she was forced to take a few chances to make a move up the leaderboard.
Ultimately, it was another strong summer showing for the Wildcats, who have enjoyed an impressive start to the summer season.
Wenzler has already claimed one summer title, having won the 105th Metropolitan Women’s Amateur Championship two weeks ago in West Chester, Ohio. Wenzler edged out none other than incoming freshman Laney Frye, who has also won a championship this summer. Frye finished atop the field at the inaugural Pete & Alice Dye Junior Invitational in May in Carmel, Indiana.
Other notable summer finishes include Casey Ott’s runner-up showing at last week’s Arkansas State Golf Association’s Women’s Stroke Play Championship in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Several other Wildcats have been in action as well. Rikke Svejgård Nielsen played in last week’s Danish Matchplay Championship last week and is competing this week in the Vejlematchen in Denmark. Janika Rüttimann appeared in the Austria National Open and will play again this weekend in the Voralberg State Championship in Austria. Senior Sarah Shipley appeared in the Colorado Women’s Open and Sarah Fite also played in the Metropolitan Women’s Amateur Championship with Wenzler and Frye.
This week’s performances by Wenzler and Castle won’t come as a surprise to those who followed their freshman seasons at Kentucky. Statistically speaking, they were the top two golfers on a team that won two championships, placed second in another, set a new school team scoring average, and was certainly headed to NCAA regionals before they were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Castle, who joined UK as the highest-rated signee in school history, lived up to lofty expectations in year one. She set the school's new single-season stroke average record with a 71.88 mark and became the Wildcats’ first All-Southeastern Conference First Team pick – and the first-ever Kentucky freshman – since Cindy Mueller in 1989.
Appearing in a team-high-tying six events in the shortened season, Castle placed in the top 20 five times with two top-10 showings. Eleven of her 17 rounds were par or better, the best mark on the team and the third-best mark in single-season school history. The team used her scored in 15 of 17 rounds, tied for a team best
Wenzler was nearly as impressive. The 2018 Ohio High School Athletic Association state champion posted a 73.18 stroke average, the third-best mark in the program record books. In her first season of college golf, Wenzler recorded three top-20 finishes, including tying for sixth at the Cardinal Cup. Six of her 17 rounds were par or better, and the team used her scoring in 15 of 17 rounds, tied for the team high.
Kentucky’s 2020-21 roster is shaping up to be the strongest group of players in program history. Nine of 10 players from the record-setting 2019-20 season are returning after winning two team championships, setting a new team scoring record and posting 10 top-10 individual finishes.
The group will join Frye and Augusta transfer María Villanueva Aperribay, who posted a 73.6 stroke average in her first season in college.