Audrey Judd leads the Huskers to the East & West Match Play Challenge in Wisconsin.
Photo by Scott Bruhn/Nebraska Communications

Huskers Head to East & West Match Play Challenge

By NU Athletic Communications

The Nebraska women’s golf team journeys outside the Cornhusker State for the first time in 2017-18, when the Huskers compete in the East & West Match Play Challenge at the University Ridge Golf Course in Madison, Wis., Sept. 17-19.

The three-day tournament begins with 36 holes of stroke play on Sunday, Sept. 17, which tees off with a shotgun start at 9 a.m., on the par-72, 6,129-yard layout at University Ridge.

Sunday’s stroke play competition will determine seeding for Match Play on Monday and Tuesday, with the top four teams from stroke play filling up the Championship Bracket. Sunday’s fifth through eighth-place teams will make up the Consolation Bracket.

Sophomore Kate Smith (Detroit Lakes, Minn.), who earned Big Ten Golfer-of-the-Week honors following her career-best runner-up finish at the season-opening UNO Invitational, Sept. 1-2, will occupy the top spot in the Husker order in Wisconsin. Smith led Nebraska with a three-round score of 221 at ArborLinks.

Senior Audrey Judd (Olathe, Kan.) will play out of the No. 2 spot in the lineup, after her top-five finish at the UNO Invite. Judd took fourth with a 54-hole score of 225.

Freshman Noor Ahmed (Folsom, Calif.) will earn her first career appearance in the Husker lineup after qualifying as Nebraska’s No. 3 golfer for the East & West Match Play Challenge. Ahmed tied for 17th (231) while playing as an individual outside the Husker lineup at UNO.

Sophomore Annie Sritragul (Bangkok, Thailand), who tied for ninth with a 229 at the UNO Invite, will play out of the No. 4 spot for the Huskers in Wisconsin.
Sophomore Haley Thiele (Wahoo, Neb.) claimed Nebraska’s No. 5 lineup spot. She opened her third year at Nebraska by tying for sixth (227) at the UNO Invite. Haley’s younger sister, Hannah, will join the Huskers in Wisconsin to play as an individual in her first collegiate appearance.

East & West Match Play Challenge

Location: Madison, Wis.
Course: University Ridge Golf Course (Par 72/6,219 Yards)
Format: Stroke Play, Sunday, Sept. 17, 9 a.m. (CT) - Shotgun (36 holes)
Match Play, Monday, Sept. 18 & Tuesday, Sept. 19
Top Four Teams, Championship Bracket; Bottom Four Teams, Consolation Bracket

Participating Teams (8)

  • Iowa State
  • Michigan
  • Nebraska
  • Ohio State
  • Oregon
  • Oregon State
  • UC Davis
  • Wisconsin

Nebraska Lineup

1. Kate Smith
2. Audrey Judd
3. Noor Ahmed
4. Annie Sritragul
5. Haley Thiele
IND - Hannah Thiele

Smith Captures Big Ten Honor After Runner-Up Finish at UNO
Nebraska’s Kate Smith earned the Big Ten’s inaugural Golfer-of-the-Week award of 2017-18 after her career-best runner-up finish at the season-opening UNO Invitational. Smith finished with a three-round score of 221 (76-70-75) on the par-72, 6,134-yard layout at ArborLinks in Nebraska City.

It marked the fifth top-10 tournament finish and her eighth top-25 showing in her young career.Smith helped the Huskers to a runner-up finish as a team as well, as Nebraska finished with a three-round score of 899. It was NU’s best team finish since winning the Mountain View Collegiate in the spring of 2014.The award also marked the second Big Ten Golfer-of-the-Week award of Smith’s career, joining her first honor on Oct. 12, 2016. She won that award following her career-best 215 (73-72-70) to finish in a tie for seventh in the 18-team Ron Moore Intercollegiate, Oct. 7-9, 2016.

Smith’s performance on the opening weekend of her sophomore season followed an impressive freshman campaign in 2016-17. She earned a berth in the 2017 NCAA Columbus Regional to give Nebraska its first NCAA Regional competitor since current LPGA professional Madeleine Sheils in 2012. Smith, who tied for 37th at the Columbus Regional, smashed the school record with her 73.90 stroke average during the season.

The sophomore from Detroit Lakes, Minn., produced seven top-25 finishes in 10 tournaments as a freshman. Smith carded a career-best 214 over three rounds at the Clover Cup, including an opening-round 68 and a final-round 71. Smith owns 10 rounds of better than par through the first 34 rounds of her career.

Haley Thiele Happy to be Back in Big Red Lineup
Sophomore Haley Thiele is eager to make up for lost time after redshirting with a wrist injury in her second season as a Husker in 2016-17.Thiele produced one of the best freshman seasons in Nebraska history in 2015-16, notching a then-freshman school-record 75.63 stroke average. She also closed her rookie year as NU’s No. 2 finisher at the Big Ten Championships in 39th place. 

During the season, Thiele tied the Husker freshman record with a five-under-par 67 at the Las Vegas Collegiate Showdown while matching first-team All-American Sarah Sasse’s overall NU record with a 54-hole score of 209.

While her injury kept her off the course for the 2016-17 season, Thiele came back strong over the summer of 2017, capturing the Nebraska Women’s Amateur title and the Nebraska Women’s Amateur Stroke Play championship. She continued her strong play by opening her sophomore season with a tie for sixth with a 227 at the UNO Invitational, Sept. 1-2. It was the first top-10 finish of her collegiate career. Haley is joined on the Husker roster this season by her younger sister, Hannah.

Judd Plans to be Leader for Huskers as Senior 
Audrey Judd displayed impressive improvement on the course during the 2016-17 campaign, taking her game to another level with a victory at the 2017 Westbrook Spring Invitational in late-February.

Judd captured her first collegiate tournament title with a career-best and school-record-tying three-round total of 209 to win the 13-team tournament hosted by Wisconsin in Peoria, Ariz. She opened with an even-par 72 before matching her then-career best with a second-round 69. She secured the win with a career-best 68 on the par-72, 6,269-yard layout of the Vistas Course at Westbrook. She added her third top-five finish with a 217 at the Hawkeye El Tigre in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, in April, which included a four-under-par 68 in the final round.Judd finished with a career-best 75.08 stroke average as a junior, which was a three-stroke-per-round improvement over her previous season best.

She joins Emily Gillman as the only seniors on a Nebraska roster that does not possess a single junior. Judd opened her senior season with a top-five finish by taking fourth (225) at the UNO Invitational, Sept. 1-2.

Gillman Adds Leadership On, Off the Course for NU
Emily Gillman posted a 79.16 stroke average over 25 rounds for the Huskers as a junior in 2016-17, and has been a regular contributor for the Big Red for her first three seasons at Nebraska. But the contributions of the senior from Austin, Texas, have not been limited to the course.

A two-time WGCA Scholastic All-American (2015, 2017) for the Huskers, Gillman was also an academic All-Big Ten choice in 2016 and 2017. She also earned a prestigious Nebraska Sam Foltz Hero 27 Leadership Award as a junior. A two-time Big Ten Championship competitor for the Huskers, Gillman produced a career-best tie for 23rd at the 2016 Ron Moore Intercollegiate that included a pair of career-best rounds of 72 to finish with a career-best tournament total of 219.

Sophomores to Shape Heart of Husker Lineup in 2017-18
After putting one of its youngest lineups in history on the course in 2016-17, Nebraska still expects to feature an extremely young lineup in 2017-18. However, the freshmen who played major roles for the Big Red last year have a year of experience under their belts.

The 2017-18 sophomore class also will receive a major boost from the return of 2016-17 redshirt Haley Thiele, who had one of the best freshman seasons in school history in 2015-16.Nebraska’s strong sophomore class was on display with Kate Smith (No. 1), Haley Thiele (No. 2), Jessica Haraden (No. 4) and Annie Sritragul (No. 5) surrounding senior Audrey Judd (No. 3) in Nebraska’s five-player lineup at the season-opening UNO Invitational. 

All four sophomores produced top-20 individual finishes at UNO, including top-10 finishes from Smith (2nd), Thiele (T6th) and Sritragul (T9th).Smith occupied the top spot in the NU lineup throughout her freshman season, while Sritragul was a regular in the 2017 spring lineup.

Sritragul tied Judd for NU’s second-best performance at the Big Ten Tournament (T49th, 236), just two strokes back of Smith (47th, 234). Sritragul competed in all 28 rounds for the Huskers as a freshman and finished with a 77.86 stroke average. Nebraska’s first-ever golfer from Thailand, Sritragul improved throughout the season and was playing her best golf down the stretch. Sritragul will not turn 18 years old until the end of September.

Freshmen Could Contend for Spots, Add Support in 2017-18
Nebraska’s youthful lineup will be bolstered by four true freshmen in 2017-18. Noor Ahmed (Folsom, Calif.) earned her first lineup spot for the East & West Match Play Challenge after competing as an individual at the UNO Invitational, Sept. 1-2.

Ahmed was one of the top players in Northern California during her high school career at Vista del Lago High School. She was also a star in the classroom. 

Fellow freshman Hannah Thiele has been one of the state of Nebraska’s top golfers the past four years at Wahoo Bishop Neumann High School. The 2015 and 2016 Nebraska Golf Association Girls’ Amateur of the Year, Thiele was the youngest player in history to win the Nebraska Women’s Stroke Play and Match Play tournaments, sweeping the titles in 2016 at age 18. Thiele also finished fourth at the 2016 Optimist International Junior Championship in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. Thiele battled an injury throughout the summer and has been slowed early this season.

Iowa high school Class 3A champion Brooke Newell joins three-time Nebraska Class B district champion Kirsten Baete as expected redshirts in 2017-18.

Sophomore Smith Continues Minnesota Connection
Kate Smith, a sophomore from Detroit Lakes, Minn., continues an outstanding tradition of top golfers from the state of Minnesota playing at Nebraska. Smith, who set Nebraska’s single-season stroke average record (73.90) while qualifying for the 2017 NCAA Central Regional, is the latest in a nearly continuous flow of Huskers from the Land of 10,000 Lakes.

Cassie Deeg (Hugo, 2013-16), Steffi Neisen (New Prague, 2011-14),  Chrissie McArdle (Eden Prairie, 2004-07) and Jackie Beste (2003-06) were all standout golfers for the Big Red. The 2017-18 season marks the eighth straight year Nebraska has had a Minnesota golfer in its lineup. Smith is the only five-time individual state champion in Minnesota high school history. She capped her career by claiming a share of her record fifth title on June 15, 2016 while leading Detroit Lakes High School to its fourth state team championship in the past five years. She was also the winner of the 2016 Minnesota Ms. Golf Award.

Big Red Face Solid Schedule
The Huskers face another strong schedule  in 2017-18, beginning with the UNO Invitational in Nebraska City, Sept. 1-2. It marked the earliest start on the course for the Huskers since the 1996-97 season when the Big Red opened with a victory at the Lady Lion Invitational in State College, Pa., Aug. 31-Sept. 1.

The Huskers continue the fall at the East & West Match Play Challenge in Madison, Wis., Sept. 17-19, before making their only home appearance at the 2017 Chip-N Club Invitational at Wilderness Ridge Golf Course in Lincoln, Oct. 1-3.  

The Huskers travel to North Carolina for the Pinehurst Challenge, Oct. 9-10, before closing the fall for the third consecutive season at the UNLV Collegiate Showdown in Boulder City, Nev., Oct. 22-24.

Nebraska opens its spring season at the Lady Puerto Rico Classic at Rio Mar CC in San Juan, Feb. 11-13, before competing for the seventh consecutive year at the Westbrook Spring Invitational in Peoria, Ariz., Feb. 25-26. 

The trip to Westbrook will be the first of three consecutive tournaments in Arizona, joining the Clover Cup in Mesa (March 16-18) and the Mountain View Invite in Tucson (March 23-25). It will be NU’s sixth straight trip to the Clover Cup, but the Huskers will be making their first appearance at Mountain View since 2014-15.

Nebraska heads to Maineville, Ohio, to compete at the Big Ten Championships, April 20-22, 2018. The Huskers will compete for the conference crown on the Arnold Palmer-designed Tournament Players Club River’s Bend Course, which will serve as the host to the conference tournament for the second straight season.

NCAA Regional competitions will be held in Tallahassee, Fla. (Florida State), Stanford, Calif. (Stanford), Austin, Texas (Texas) and Madison, Wis. (Wisconsin) May 7-9, before the NCAA Championships are held at Karsten Creek Golf Course in Stillwater, Okla., May 18-23.

Huskers Set Pace in Classroom
Nebraska leads the nation with 329 CoSIDA Academic All-Americans and 17 NCAA Top 10 Award winners across all sports. Nebraska women’s golf leads the nation with 71 WGCA Scholastic All-Americans since 1989.  

Current Huskers Emily Gillman (2015, 2017), Annie Sritragul (2017) and Haley Thiele (2016) are the latest Huskers to claim spots on the WGCA’s prestigious academic team.  A trio of Huskers added academic All-Big Ten honors last season, led by Gillman, Audrey Judd and Sarah Pravecek. They were the only three Huskers eligible to win the awards last season.

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