Challenging Scarlet Course didn’t yield a single team score of par or better on Monday
COLUMBUS, Ohio – The Kentucky women’s golf team faced a tall task Monday going against some of the nation’s best teams at the NCAA Columbus Regional. Toss in one of the hardest courses in the region, a young team, and unseasonably chilly and blustery conditions and it made for a tough first day at the famed Scarlet Course at the Ohio State University Golf Club.
Kentucky posted a 326 (38-over par) in the opening round, its highest score of the season, but the first round of the NCAA postseason proved to be just as difficult for the rest of the 18-team field. Not a single team shot under par, and just one squad – top-seeded Florida – kept its score below 10-over par.
With plenty of golf still to go, the Wildcats are in 16th place heading into Tuesday’s second round. Fans can continue to follow along with live scoring all week at Golfstat.com and on the official Kentucky women’s golf social media channels, @KentuckyWGolf. UK’s first second-round tee time is at 9:09 a.m.
“It was a tough day for us,” head coach Golda Johansson Borst said. “The conditions were tough today, but they were tough for everybody. To be honest with you, I just don’t think we handled the mental toughness and the emotional part of it as well as we needed to today. We talked about how tough it was going to be, how we needed to play the golf course, hit certain spots, and manage our thoughts and manage our games, but the girls just had a hard time.”
UK will certainly have some ground to make up over the next two days if it hopes to advance to the NCAA Championships, but the coveted sixth-place position isn’t out of reach. That spot currently belongs to No. 12 South Carolina and No. 13 Arkansas at 21-over par.
The low six teams and the low three individuals not on those teams from each of the four NCAA Regionals (Columbus Regional, Albuquerque Regional, Lubbock Regional, Athens Regional) will advance past this weekend and to the national championships, to be held May 19-24 at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, Illinois.
Florida, fresh off its Southeastern Conference Championship two weeks ago, leads the field at 9-over par. Purdue’s Marta Martin Garcia is pacing the 96-player field at 2-under par.
The Wildcats will try to get back in the mix Tuesday with 36 holes left over the next two days.
“This is going to prove who we are,” Borst said of bouncing back for the next two rounds. “We’ve got to fight. Right now we’re just looking how far up the leaderboard can we climb in two days. There’s a ton of golf left, and we want to make sure we leave here feeling good about who we are and that we are better than this.”
Junior Isabelle Johansson, UK’s top golfer this season, was Kentucky’s top finisher Monday. The 2015 NCAA Championships qualifier has been on this stage before, and it showed early in the first round when the temperatures were at their coolest and the wind was at its highest.
After bogeying No. 10, her first hole of the day, she bounced back with a birdie on the par-3 13th after sticking the 156-yard shot within four feet. Johansson would go on to bogey the next hole but played the rest of her opening nine at even par.
Johansson had a more difficult second nine but finished at 6-over par and in a tie for 36th place, still within reach of the individual leaders.
Freshman Sarah Shipley, playing in her first career NCAA Regional, had the second-best round of the day for the Wildcats. Coming off a 54-hole career-best 224 at the SEC Championship, she opened the Columbus Regional at 9-over par. She’s tied for 65th.
Junior Grace Rose entered Monday as Kentucky’s hottest golfer after firing a career-best 214 at the SEC Championship, but she got off to a rough start and stands a 10-over par and in a tie for 73rd. She carded one of UK’s two birdies on the day.
Freshman Josephine Chang is in 84th place at 13-over par and sophomore Claire Carlin is in a tie for 91st at 15-over par.
Kentucky is making its sixth NCAA Regional appearance in Borst’s seven seasons in Lexington. UK’s last appearance, in 2015 at the South Bend Regional, nearly ended in Kentucky’s first NCAA Championships berth since 1992. The Wildcats placed seventh that season, just one spot short of making the cut.
Making history this week won’t be easy. The Columbus Regional boasts five conference champions and six teams ranked in the top 25 of Golfstat’s rankings. Temperatures are expected to be marginally warmer Tuesday but rain is in the forecast for the afternoon.
UK entered this week with four top-five finishes in its nine stroke-play tournament format events this season, 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 week’s Columbus Regional is taking place at the Scarlet Course at the Ohio State University Golf Club. Recently renovated by Jack Nicklaus in 2006, the Scarlet Course is playing as long as 6,416 yards this week, a par 72.