The Nebraska women’s golf team opens its 2017 spring campaign at the Central District Invitational in Port Saint Lucie, Fla., Monday, Feb. 20 and Tuesday, Feb. 21.
The hosts from Michigan State lead a 14-team field that includes Nebraska, Iowa, Maryland and Rutgers from the Big Ten, along with North Carolina, Louisville, Ole Miss, Memphis, College of Charleston, UNC Wilmington, Furman, Toledo and Augusta. The teams will take on a 6,265-yard layout at the St. Lucie Trail Golf Club with 36 holes on Monday and the final 18 holes on Tuesday. Live scoring for the event will be available at BirdieFire.com.
Freshman Kate Smith will lead a five-golfer lineup for the Big Red in Florida that includes junior Audrey Judd, freshman Annie Sritragul, junior Emily Gillman and senior Sarah Pravecek.
“Kate Smith has played phenomenal,” Nebraska Coach Robin Krapfl said. “She has provided the consistent low number we need to be successful. The future is very bright.”
While Smith has led a freshman class that also has received contributions from Sritragul and Claire Robertson, Judd and Gillman have stepped up in big ways for the Big Red, with both of them slashing more than four strokes per round off their games from a year ago.
“We did a lot of good things this fall, and our returning players made some nice progress since last spring,” Krapfl said. “Audrey especially has come on strong.”
2017 Central District Invitational
Location: Port Saint Lucie, Fla.
Course: St. Lucie Trail Golf Club
Start: Monday, Feb. 20 - 7:30 a.m. (CT)
Tuesday, Feb. 21 - 7:30 a.m. (CT)
Participating Teams (14)
- College of Charleston
- Michigan State
- North Carolina
- Ole Miss
- UNC Wilmington
- Kate Smith
- Audrey Judd
- Annie Sritragul
- Emily Gillman
- Sarah Pravecek
Freshman Smith setting Record pace for Rising Big Red
Nebraska’s Kate Smith is setting an impressive standard early in her collegiate career. The freshman from Detroit Lakes, Minn., notched her fifth consecutive top-25 finish by tying for 21st in the 105-player Las Vegas Collegiate Showdown, Oct. 23-25.
Smith finished the rain-shortened 36-hole event with a three-under-par 141 (70-71). Her scores gave her six rounds better than par in her first 13 collegiate rounds, while improving her stroke average to 72.62.
The overall Nebraska single-season stroke average record was set by Natalie Gleadall (74.00) in 2009-10.
Smith is 3.01 strokes per round ahead of Haley Thiele’s Nebraska freshman-record stroke average of 75.63 set last season. The only other Husker freshman in history to produce a stroke average better than 76 was eventual first-team All-American Sarah Sasse (75.89, 1998-99).
Smith produced three straight top-10 finishes during the fall, including a career-best tie for seventh with a career-best 215 (73-72-70) at the 18-team Ron Moore Intercollegiate, Oct. 7-9. For her efforts in Colorado, Smith claimed the first Big Ten Golfer-of-the-Week award of her career.
Juniors Make Impressive Jumps During Fall Season
Audrey Judd and Emily Gillman have demonstrated significant improvement on the course during the first half of the 2016-17 campaign.
Judd, a junior from Olathe, Kan., stormed into the close of the fall season with seven consecutive rounds of 75 or better on her way to three of the best tournament performances of her career.
After tying for 16th (79-73-73-225) at Nebraska’s Chip-N Club Invitational, Sept. 25-27, Judd fired a career-best 215 (69-75-71) to tie teammate Kate Smith for seventh at the Ron Moore Intercollegiate, Oct. 7-9. Judd’s opening-round 69 was also a career best.
Judd closed the fall with a one-under-par 143 over two rounds at the rain-shortened Las Vegas Collegiate Showdown to tie for 36th in a loaded 105-player field.
Judd’s impressive play down the stretch during the fall allowed her to slash her season stroke average to 74.10 through 10 rounds.
Judd’s performance may be even more impressive considering she spent much of the summer battling injury and was not in the Nebraska lineup at either the Ptarmigan Ram Classic or East and West Match Play Challenge to open the season.
Judd’s 74.10 stroke average is just off school-record pace (74.00 entering 2016-17) and represents a 4.06 stroke-per-round improvement over her 78.16 average in 32 rounds a year ago.
Gillman, a junior from Austin, Texas, also finished the fall strong by producing five consecutive rounds of 77 or better, including a pair of career-best scores of 72 at the Ron Moore Intercollegiate. She fired a career-best 219 (72-75-72) at Ron Moore to tie for 23rd in the best tournament showing of her career.
She added a two-round total of 150 (77-73) at the Las Vegas Collegiate Showdown to close the fall with a 77.08 stroke average over 13 rounds. Her effort in 2016-17 marked a 4.09 stroke-per-round improvement over the 12 rounds she played a year ago (81.17).
Pravecek Providing Veteran Leadership for Young Huskers
Sarah Pravecek is the lone senior on Nebraska’s 2016-17 roster, and she has stepped up to provide consistent scoring and veteran leadership for a youthful collection of Huskers.
Through 13 fall rounds, Pravecek produced Nebraska’s third-best stroke average (76.08). Her stroke average represents a 1.75 stroke-per-round improvement over the 77.83 stroke average she produced as a junior over 24 rounds for the Huskers in 2015-16.
Perhaps even more importantly, Pravecek carded 79 or better in 12 of her 13 fall rounds inside Nebraska’s lineup, providing a measure of consistency while surrounded by an inexperienced group of freshmen.
“Sarah has been very consistent and has done a great job with the freshmen,” Nebraska Coach Robin Krapfl said.
Pravecek has played 64 career rounds for the Huskers and owns a 77.70 career stroke average.
Off the course, Pravecek is a two-time academic All-Big Ten selection and was a member of the 2016 Tom Osborne Citizenship Team for her commitment to Nebraska’s community outreach and leadership efforts.
“We are looking forward to Sarah having her best season as a Husker,” Krapfl said. “We will need her to be a leader for us on and off the course since we have such a young team.”
Freshmen Playing Major Roles for Huskers in 2016-17
Nebraska is putting one of its youngest lineups in history on the course in 2016-17. The Huskers replaced 2015-16 seniors Cassie Deeg, Morgan Smejkal and Cassidy Stelzmiller with three true freshmen when they opened the season at the Ptarmigan Ram Classic.
Not only are the Huskers replacing three seniors, including fifth-year seniors Smejkal and Stelzmiller, they are also compensating for the loss of Haley Thiele. The sophomore from Wahoo, Neb., produced the best freshman stroke average (75.63) in school history in 2015-16 and was Nebraska’s No. 2 finisher at the Big Ten Championships. Thiele is redshirting in 2016-17 while recovering from a wrist injury.
With four open spots in the lineup and just one senior - Sarah Pravecek - on the roster, the four members of Nebraska’s freshman class will continue to get chances to prove themselves in the lineup early in their careers.
Freshman Kate Smith played out of the No. 1 spot in the Husker lineup throughout the fall, while freshmen Annie Sritragul and Claire Robertson have also earned lineup spots early this season.
Smith and Sritragul played out of the top two spots at the Chip-N Club Invitational, while Robertson and Jessica Haraden competed as individuals.
Sritragul competed inside the Nebraska lineup in four of five fall events and played in all 13 rounds for the Huskers. She finished with a 77.85 stroke average to rank fifth among the Huskers. She produced eight rounds of 78 or better during the fall, including a career-best 71 in the final round of the Ron Moore Intercollegiate, Oct. 7.
Robertson competed in three tournaments inside Nebraska’s lineup, while playing in NU’s first 11 rounds of the fall. She fired a career-best 70 in the final round of the Chip-N Club Invitational to tie for 31st while playing as an individual outside the Husker lineup.
Thiele Redshirting in 2016-17
Sophomore Haley Thiele is redshirting during the 2016-17 season while recovering from a wrist injury that kept her out of action throughout the summer of 2016.
Thiele produced one of the best freshman seasons in Nebraska history in 2015-16, notching a 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 school record with a three-round tournament score of 209.
“Haley showed her outstanding potential last year, but we all feel like she has a lot of great golf ahead of her,” Nebraska Coach Robin Krapfl said. “Her injury kept her off the course the entire summer, and she has a good plan in place for a complete recovery. We know it is the best thing for her future as a golfer and for our program.”
Freshman Smith Continues Minnesota Connection
Kate Smith established a record-setting pace in the Husker lineup during the 2016 fall campaign. Her 72.62 stroke average is 1.38 strokes per round ahead of Nebraska’s previous single-season record of 74.00 (Natalie Gleadall, 2009-10).
Smith, a true freshman from Detroit Lakes, Minn., 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, while leading Detroit Lakes High School to its fourth state team championship in the past five years.
The winner of the 2016 Minnesota Ms. Golf Award, Smith set three course records as a senior, including a 64 at The Vintage Course. As a junior, she produced a stellar 70.37 stroke average.
Smith continues a tradition of top golfers from the state of Minnesota playing at Nebraska, including Cassie Deeg (Hugo, 2013-16), Steffi Neisen (New Prague, 2011-14), Chrissie McArdle (Eden Prairie, 2004-07) and Jackie Beste (2003-06). In fact, the 2016-17 season will mark the seventh consecutive year that Nebraska has had at least one Minnesota golfer in its lineup.
Big Red Face Solid Schedule
The Huskers will face another challenging schedule in 2016-17, beginning with the Ptarmigan Ram Classic in Fort Collins, Colo., Sept. 12-13. The Huskers continued the fall at the East & West Match Play Challenge in Ann Arbor, Mich., Sept. 18-20.
Nebraska made its only home appearance of the year at the 2016 Chip-N Club Invitational at Wilderness Ridge Golf Course in Lincoln, Sept. 25-27.
The Huskers returned to Colorado for the Ron Moore Intercollegiate in Denver, Oct. 7-9, before wrapping up the fall portion of the schedule at the Las Vegas Collegiate Showdown in Boulder City, Nev., Oct. 23-25.
The spring schedule tees off with the Central District Invitational in Port St. Lucie, Fla., Feb. 20-21, before the Huskers return to the Westbrook Spring Invitational in Peoria, Ariz., Feb. 26-27. Three weeks later, Nebraska returns to Arizona for the Clover Cup in Mesa, March 17-19, before concluding the regular season at the Hawkeye El Tigre in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico, April 2-4.
NU heads to Maineville, Ohio, to compete at the Big Ten Championships, April 21-23, 2017. The Huskers will compete for the conference crown on the Arnold Palmer-designed Tournament Players Club River’s Bend Course.
Nebraska hopes to contend for its 12th NCAA Regional bid since 1994. NCAA Regional competitions will be held in Columbus, Ohio (Ohio State), Lubbock, Texas (Texas Tech) and Albuquerque, N.M. (New Mexico) May 8-10, before the NCAA Championships are held at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, Ill., May 18-24.