Photo by Scott Bruhn/Nebraska Communications

Huskers Open Season at Ptarmigan Ram

By NU Athletic Communications

The Nebraska women’s golf team opens its 2018-19 campaign on Monday when the Huskers travel to Fort Collins, Colo., for the Ptarmigan Ram Fall Classic.

The three-day tournament will feature 13 teams on the par-72, 6,466-yard layout at the Ptarmigan Golf Club. Action begins on Monday (Sept. 17) with tee times off No. 1 and No. 10 beginning at 9:30 a.m. (CT). Play continues with the second round on Tuesday (Sept. 18) with tee times on the same schedule, before the 54-hole tournament concludes Wednesday (Sept. 19) with play starting at 10 a.m. (CT). Live scoring for the entire tournament is available through GolfStat.com.

Coach Robin Krapfl, who enters her 32nd season at the helm of the Huskers, will take a five-player lineup to Colorado State to open the season. Junior Kate Smith (Detroit Lakes, Minn.), who set a school record with her 73.66 stroke average last season, earned Nebraska’s No. 1 spot in qualifying for the tournament.

Fellow junior Haley Thiele (Wahoo, Neb.) added Nebraska’s No. 2 qualifying score. Thiele, who has battled injuries the past two years, hopes for a strong fourth year with the Huskers after making adjustments to her swing during the offseason.

Sophomore Noor Ahmed (Folsom, Calif.), who was Nebraska’s No. 2 finisher at the 2018 Big Ten Championships, earned a lineup spot for the Huskers in Colorado. She will be joined by redshirt freshman Kirsten Baete (Beatrice, Neb.) and true freshman Vanessa Bouvet (Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei), who will both be making their Husker debuts. Nebraska’s contingent in Colorado will include junior Jessica Haraden (Thousand Oaks, Calif.), who will compete as an individual outside the Husker lineup.

Ptarmigan Ram Fall Classic
Host: Colorado State
Location: Fort Collins, Colorado
Course: Ptarmigan Golf Club (Par 72, 6,466 Yards)

Tournament Schedule
Monday, Sept. 17 (Tee Times) - 9:30 a.m. (CT)
Tuesday, Sept. 18 (Tee Times) - 9:30 a.m. (CT)
Wednesday, Sept. 19 (Tee Times) - 10 a.m. (CT)

Live Scoring: GolfStat.com

Participating Teams (13)

  • Boise State
  • Colorado State
  • Idaho 
  • Long Beach State
  • Nebraska
  • Nevada
  • New Mexico State
  • Northern Colorado
  • Portland State
  • San Francisco
  • UC Irvine
  • UNC Greensboro
  • Wyoming

Nebraska Lineup
1. Kate Smith
2. Haley Thiele
3. Kirsten Baete
4. Vanessa Baete
5. Noor Ahmed
IND. Jessica Haraden

Smith Shoots for Third Straight Record-Setting Season as Husker
Kate Smith enters her junior year at Nebraska focused on improving on her back-to-back school-record stroke averages while making a return trip to NCAA Regional competition. Smith, who notched a then-school-record 73.90 average as a freshman on her way to a 2017 NCAA Regional bid, improved to a 73.66 stroke average as a sophomore but just missed a regional berth.

In 2017-18, Smith smashed a school record with her 14-under-par 202, which is seven strokes better than any other Husker has ever recorded.  The previous mark of 209 was set by first-team All-American Sarah Sasse at the Ptarmigan Ram Fall Classic in September of 2002.

Smith’s effort at the 2018 Westbrook Spring Invite (Peoria, Ariz., Feb. 25-26), included a school-record eight-under-par 64 in the second round. Smith, who posted Nebraska’s top finish by taking 19th at the 2018 Big Ten Championships, owns three career Big Ten Golfer-of-the-Week awards, including two during the fall of 2017.

Smith owns 14 top-25 tournament finishes in her career, including nine top-10 performances.She has fired 16 rounds better than par in her career, but she is still shooting for her first collegiate tournament victory.

“It is only a matter of time before Kate wins a college tournament. She has the innate talent it takes to compete at the highest level,” Nebraska Coach Robin Krapfl said. “As her game has matured, her low scores and consistency have really improved. She is our rock and someone we will count on to help lead us to the postseason.”

Adjustments Help Haley Thiele Improve Game for Junior Year
Haley Thiele battled the continuing effects of a wrist injury in 2017-18, after the injury kept her off the course as a redshirt for the entire 2016-17 campaign. During the summer of 2018, Thiele made significant adjustments to her swing and began seeing the fruits of her labor during qualifying rounds for the Ptarmigan Ram Fall Classic.

Although Thiele may experience some ups and downs that go along with making major swing adjustments, she has the potential to return to the form she showed as one of the nation’s top junior players.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 then-overall NU record with a 54-hole score of 209.

“I am so proud of Haley. She made a very hard decision to try another swing coach, and then put the work in it takes to make changes,” Nebraska Coach Robin Krapfl said. “If there was a picture for hard work it would be Haley. She deserves every success she has because she has put in the time to be great.”

Sophomore Ahmed Shoots for Solid Second Season
Noor Ahmed (Folsom, Calif.) became a key player in Nebraska’s lineup as a true freshman in 2017-18. After battling her way into the lineup at times during the fall season, she became a fixture in the Huskers’ top five in the spring of 2018. She went on to post Nebraska’s No. 2 finish with her tie for 40th at the Big Ten Championships.

Ahmed enjoyed a career-best two-under-par 70 in the final round at the Westbrook Spring Invitational, Feb. 26. It was her first collegiate round better than par. She finished fourth among the Huskers with her 76.45 stroke average in 2017-18.Ahmed joins Kate Smith as the only returning Huskers to compete in all 29 rounds for Nebraska in 2017-18. Ahmed was a member of the Husker lineup in all 15 rounds during the 2018 spring season, and the Ptarmigan Ram Fall Classic will mark her seventh consecutive appearance inside the NU lineup.

Ahmed, Smith Featured by Faces of the Big Ten
Noor Ahmed gained national exposure when she was featured by the Golf Channel for her courage while encountering discrimination. Ahmed is the first NCAA Division I golfer to compete while wearing a hijab - the traditional head covering worn in public by Muslim women.

Ahmed and Husker teammate Kate Smith were featured together in the Golf Channel piece, and the good friends will also be featured in a Faces of the Big Ten piece created by the Big Ten Network in 2018-19.

Freshmen Ready to Make Impact by Hitting the Long Ball
Nebraska’s 2018-19 roster features five newcomers to collegiate competition, including three true freshmen and a pair of redshirt freshmen. Several of the young Huskers have displayed the ability to hit the long ball with consistency and could make major impacts in the Husker lineup early in their careers.

Nebraska’s biggest hitter could be true freshman Vanessa Bouvet. The young but well-traveled newcomer from Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei, put up Nebraska’s No. 4 qualifying score heading into the Ptarmigan Ram Fall Classic. She also boomed Nebraska’s longest drives.

“Vanessa is a power player with the length to be comfortable on any golf course,” Nebraska Coach Robin Krapfl said. “We also expect her to be an outstanding student and teammate who will have a chance to come in and compete for a spot in our lineup as a freshman. Her experience in growing up and playing golf around the world will be an added benefit to our entire team.”

Kirsten Baete’s long drives and her competitiveness also helped her secure Nebraska’s No. 3 qualifying spot for the Ptarmigan Ram. The 2016 Nebraska Class B State High School Champion enjoyed a strong redshirt season and made major improvements in her consistency and her short game.

“Kirsten is coming off a redshirt season where she made big strides in her game,” Krapfl said. “It will be exciting to see what she can accomplish. She has the length to really put herself in great scoring situations. The next step is staying committed and confident under par. She can really help us this year when she starts seeing herself as the great talent we think she is.”

Hannah Thiele Hopes to Fight Pain to Contend for Lineup Spots
Hannah Thiele was one of the state of Nebraska’s top high school and junior golfers for four years at Wahoo Bishop Neumann before battling a back injury as a high school senior. The injury hampered her as a freshman at Nebraska, but she managed to compete for the Huskers and claimed Nebraska’s Big Ten Sportsmanship Award in 2018.

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.

As a freshman in 2017-18, Thiele competed in 22 rounds and was one of six golfers to represent the Huskers at the 2018 Big Ten Championships.

“Hannah is kind of a wildcard,” Nebraska Coach Robin Krapfl said. “So much depends on how her back holds up, and whether she can regain the confidence and distance she had before the injury. She was making great progress in both areas before a setback this summer. We are not going to rush things, but we also know what she is capable of doing when she is on top of her game.”

Smith Continues Minnesota Connection
Kate Smith, a junior 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 (73.66) for the second straight year in 2018, also qualified for the 2017 NCAA Central Regional.

Smith 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 2018-19 season marks the ninth 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 2018-19, beginning with the Ptarmigan Ram Fall Classic in Fort Collins, Colo., Sept. 17-19. Nebraska continues play in Colorado the following week at the Golfweek Conference Challenge in Vail, Colo., Sept. 24-26, before wrapping up a three-tournament Colorado road trip at the Ron Moore Invitational in Highlands Ranch, Colo., Oct. 5-7.

The Huskers head to the UNLV Collegiate Showdown in Boulder City, Nev., Oct. 21-23, before concluding the fall campaign with a visit to the Rainbow Wahine Invitational in Kapolei, Hawaii, Oct. 29-31.

The Big Red open the spring portion of their campaign at the Lady Puerto Rico Classic in Rio Grande, P.R., Feb. 10-12, before heading to the Westbrook Spring Invitational in Peoria, Ariz., Feb. 24-25. The Huskers return to Arizona for the Clover Cup in Mesa, Ariz., March 15-17, before closing the regular season at the Lady Buckeye Spring Invitational in Columbus, Ohio, April 13-14.

Nebraska returns to Maineville, Ohio, to compete at the Big Ten Championships, April 19-21, 2019. 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 third straight season. 

NCAA Regional competitions will be held in Auburn, Ala., Cle Elum, Wash., East Lansing, Mich., and Norman, Okla., May 6-8, before the NCAA Championships are held at The Blessings Golf Club in Fayetteville, Ark., May 17-22.

Huskers Set Pace in Classroom
Nebraska leads the nation with 333 CoSIDA Academic All-Americans and 17 NCAA Top 10 Award winners across all sports. Nebraska women’s golf leads the nation with 74 WGCA Scholastic All-Americans since 1989.   Current Huskers Haley Thiele (2016, 2018) and Hannah Thiele (2018) are the latest Huskers to claim spots on the WGCA’s prestigious academic team. 

Five Huskers added academic All-Big Ten honors last season, led by returning Huskers Kate Smith and Haley Thiele, along with former NU golfers Emily Gillman, Audrey Judd and Annie Sritragul.

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