By Eric Lindsey
University of Kentucky
The University of Kentucky women’s golf team’s sensational summer continued this weekend with another championship and nearly two of them.
Janika Rüttimann won the Vorarlberger Landesmeisterschaften on Sunday in dramatic fashion with a one-shot victory at Golfclub Bludenz-Braz in Vorarlberg, Austria, while Rikke Svejgård Nielsen lost on the third playoff hole in the VejleMatchen after a marvelous final-round comeback at Vejle Golf Club in Vejle, Denmark.
Rüttimann started the day with a three-shot lead at the Vorarlberger Landesmeisterschaften but had to fend off the hard-charging Chantal Düringer in a back-and-forth second and final round.
After Düringer stormed in front by two shots with just seven holes to play, Rüttimann retook the lead with an eagle on the par-4 12th hole. Rüttimann fell behind by a shot again by going 1-over par over the next two holes while Düringer went 1-under.
That set the stage for a championship finish for the Kentucky Wildcat. Trailing by a shot, Rüttimann finished birdie, par, par, par. She was tied with Düringer heading into the final hole after Düringer birdied No. 17, but Rüttimann dealt the final blow on No. 18 with a par while Düringer bogeyed.
It’s a promising momentum builder for the freshman from Austria who was unable to compete in her first season at UK due to injury. Now healthy, Rüttimann will add another talented piece to a Kentucky women’s golf team that won two championships in 2019-20, placed second in another, set a new school team scoring average, and was certainly headed to NCAA regionals before the COVID-19 pandemic canceled all spring and winter championships.
Rüttimann came to UK as an experienced international golfer. She was ranked as high as No. 211 in World Amateur Golf Ranking before joining the Wildcats, having won the Austrian Stroke Play U18 title in 2017, finishing in first place at the Austrian Juniors Tour in 2017, and third-place showings at the 2018 Austrian Stroke Play Championship and the 2017 Austrian Match Play. She also competed in the 2018 and 2019 European Ladies’ Team Championship.
Svejgård Nielsen began the final round of the VejleMatchen seven shots back of Louise Dahl, but when Dahl stumbled in the third round to an 88, it opened up things for the rest of the field. Svejgård Nielsen took advantage with a 2-under-par 71 in the final round to force a three-way playoff with professional players Fie Kjaargaard Olsen and Linette Littau Durr Holmslykke, who won the tournament on the third playoff hole.
Svejgård Nielsen, who played in last week’s Danish Matchplay Championship, played a key part of the Wildcats’ rise the last two seasons. She’s appeared in 16 events over the last two seasons with three top-10 finishes and seven top-20 showings.
This past season alone, Svejgård Nielsen played in a season-high-tying six events, topped her first-year stroke average with a 73.6 mark – among the best marks single-season school history – and notched a career-best two top-10 finishes. She was second on the team with eight rounds of par or better, and the team used her score in 14 of 17 rounds.
It’s been a memorable past few days for Kentucky women’s golf. Sophomores Marissa Wenzler and Jensen Castle finished in the top five of the college-heavy Golfweek Myrtle Beach Collegiate. 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.
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, Ind.
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.
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.
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