OPELIKA, Ala. – Kentucky women’s golfer Leonie Bettel will have ground to make up in her quest to advance past this week and on to NCAA Championships.
The UK senior endured a difficult day on the course with a tournament-opening 83 (11-over par) in the first round of the NCAA Auburn Regional. Bettel could never find a rhythm at the Saugahatchee Country Club (par 72, 6,371 yards), a new course for the 2018-19 three-time champion.
Bettel is currently in a tie for 93rd place through 18 holes with 36 to play in Opelika, Alabama. She’ll have to begin her climb Tuesday in order to make the NCAA Championships field, which will include the low three individuals who are not on the advancing six teams from the Auburn Regional
“Today was a really tough day for Leo,” UK head coach Golda Borst said. “She felt good going into the day but had a hard time with some of her distance control early in the round. This unsettled her a bit, which led to a couple poor swings that got her in trouble off the tee. She worked to bounce back on the back nine but was never able to create any momentum.
“Leo was able to work out a few things after the round and there’s a lot of golf left. She knows she has to dig deep over the next couple of days and I know she will do so.”
Bettel, who is on pace for the best single-season stroke average in school history, certainly has the game to climb back into contention. She’ll try to do so beginning Tuesday in the second round, which begins at 9 a.m. ET. Bettel will tee off at 9:50 a.m. ET.
Live stats will continue to be available at GolfStat.com. Fans can also follow along on the official Kentucky women’s golf social media channels, @KentuckyWGolf.
Bettel rolled in nine pars on the day but could never find red numbers. A pair of double bogeys midway through her round dropped her down the leaderboard. Her 83 was her highest score of the season and just the fourth time she’s shot in the 80s in 2018-19.
Bettel will need to add to her school-record 13 rounds of par or better Tuesday to make her move. She’s carded six rounds in the 60s this season, including a 65 – one off the school record – in the final round of her Mercedes-Benz Collegiate Championship title performance.
The midseason ANNIKA Award candidate has five top-10 finishes this season with two additional top-20 showings. Those include the championship at the Mercedes-Benz, the Bettie Lou Evans Invitational and the Clover Cup.
Bettel, who is making her third career postseason appearance, was one of 24 individuals selected for the four NCAA regional sites. She tied for 59th as a freshman in 2016 and tied for 57th in 2017 as a sophomore in her previous regional experience.
Seventy-two teams and 24 individuals were selected to compete at one of the four regional sites, each featuring 18 teams and six individuals. From regional competition, 24 teams (the low six teams from each regional) and 12 individuals (the low three individuals not on those teams) will advance to the national championships, which will be played May 17-22 at the Blessings Golf Club in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
The other three regional tournaments are in East Lansing, Michigan; Norman, Oklahoma; and Cle Elum, Washington.
The Saugahatchee Country Club, host of this week’s tournament, was ranked one of the top five in the state of Alabama by Golf Digest. Admission and parking are free for fans this week.