Kentucky Women’s Golf ties Louisville 4-4 in Florida match
Louisville rallies late to tie match, salvage Battle of Bluegrass
NAPLES, Fla. (UK Athletics) – The Kentucky women’s golf team tied Louisville 4-4 in its match-play event on Tuesday to open the 2022 spring season.
Early results from the individual matches put the Wildcats on the cusp of victory with four points, but the Cardinals fought back in the final groupings to tie the match at 4-4. Because Louisville won the previous head-to-head meeting, the Cardinals retained the Battle of the Bluegrass cup with the Tuesday tie at Club Pelican Bay in Naples, Florida.
Eight of nine Wildcats were in action vs. rival Louisville on Tuesday, and several UK players staked Kentucky to an early lead with convincing decisions. To little surprise, it was junior Jensen Castle and sophomore Laney Frye, UK’s scoring average leaders in the fall, who turned in two of the early routs.
Castle, who won six straight matches in August vs. some of the nation’s best players to win the 2021 U.S. Women’s Amateur, continued her strong play in the match-play format with a dominating 7-and-6 win over Agustina Gomez Cisterna. Frye quickly followed with a 5-and-4 triumph over Lauren Thibodeau, and freshman Marta López Echevarría cruised in her match vs. Molly Lyne, 5 and 3.
Kentucky was on the board quickly with three points, needing just two more to clinch the cup. The teams decided before the match that every individual match would result in a winner, so no half points were awarded for ties. It would come into play later in the match.
Fifth-year senior Rikke Svejgård Nielsen got UK within one point of the victory with a hard-fought 1-up win vs. Hans Ryskova.
But just around the same time Svejgård Nielsen won her match and put the Wildcats on the brink of a win, three results in favor of the Cardinals came in. Louisville’s Carmen Griffiths took down junior María Villanueva Aperribay 1 up, Mairead Martin beat junior Marissa Wenzler 3 and 2, and Gabbi Bentancourt defeated fifth-year senior Sarah Fite 2 and 1.
That shrunk Kentucky’s lead to 4-3 with redshirt junior Ryan Bender locked in a tight match with Carly Haines. Bender led by a hole going into No. 18, but Haines evened it up on the 18th. Under traditional match-play rules, Bender would have halved the point for a 4.5-3.5 UK victory, but because both sides agreed to play out every match, Bender and Haines went to extra holes.
Haines outlasted Bender for a victory on their 20th hole for the final 4-4 result.
Although the Wildcats didn’t produce the results they wanted, the experience Tuesday will be key for a team that has high hopes for the spring season. Both the Southeastern Conference Championship and the NCAA Championship Finals feature match play for the teams that advance past the stroke-play rounds, which Kentucky has its sights set on again this season.
Coming off a successful fall that featured two top-five finishes with virtually the entire team that advanced last spring to the NCAA Championship Finals for the first time in 29 years, UK is hopeful to return to Scottsdale, Arizona.
A busy fall slate awaits Kentucky before those postseason goals. Next week, four Wildcats will compete as individuals in the Lady Bulldog Individual Championship (Jan. 29-30) before traditional team stroke-play events begin. Kentucky will compete in four team stroke-play events before that postseason begins April 13 at the SEC Championship in Birmingham, Alabama.