Photo by Scott Bruhn/Nebraska Communications

Huskers Open Spring in Puerto Rico

By NU Athletic Communications
The Nebraska women’s golf team opens its 2019 spring campaign by traveling to the Lady Puerto Rico Classic, Feb. 10-12. 
Purdue plays host to a 14-team field at the Rio Mar Country Club in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico. The Huskers will join Arkansas, Augusta, East Carolina, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa State, Kent State, Maryland, NC State, Northwestern, Purdue, TCU and Virginia Tech in tackling a par-72, 6,203-yard layout at Rio Mar CC. 
Play begins Sunday with a shotgun start at 6 a.m. (CT) on the River Course. The three-day, 54-hole tournament continues Monday with the second round at 6 a.m. (CT), while the final round begins with a shotgun start on Tuesday at 5:30 a.m. (CT).  
Live scoring for the tournament will be available at GolfStat.com.
Nebraska will be competing at the Lady Puerto Rico Classic for the second straight season and the fourth time since 2012. Purdue has played host to the annual tournament since 2003.
Kate Smith leads the Huskers into the spring after producing a trio of top-10 individual finishes in five fall tournaments. The junior from Detroit Lakes, Minn., owns 12 career top-10 finishes and 17 career top-25 performances. She posted a 73.23 stroke average in the fall.
Freshman Vanessa Bouvet added a strong fall campaign with a pair of top-five finishes. Bouvet tied for second at the rain-shortened Rainbow Wahine Invitational to close the fall, after opening her first season at Nebraska with a tie for third at Ptarmigan Ram Fall Classic with a three-round total of 214, including a second-round 68. She ranked second on the team with a 74.00 stroke average during the fall.
2019 Lady Puerto Rico Classic
Host: Purdue
Location: Rio Grande, Puerto Rico
Course:
Rio Mar Country Club (River Course, Par 72, 6,203 Yards)
Start Times
Sunday, Feb. 10 - 6 a.m. (CT) - Shotgun
Monday, Feb. 11 - 6 a.m. (CT) - Shotgun
Tuesday, Feb. 12 - 5:30 a.m. (CT) - Shotgun
Live Scoring: GolfStat.com
Participating Teams
  • Arkansas
  • Augusta
  • East Carolina
  • Georgia
  • Indiana
  • Iowa State
  • Kent State
  • Maryland
  • NC State
  • Nebraska
  • Northwestern
  • Purdue
  • TCU
  • Virginia Tech
Nebraska Lineup
1. Kate Smith
2. Kirsten Baete
3. Haley Thiele
4. Vanessa Bouvet
5. Noor Ahmed
IND - Megan Whittaker
Smith Shoots for Third Straight Record-Setting Season as Husker
Junior Kate Smith is 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 17 top-25 tournament finishes in her career, including her 12th top-10 performance in NU’s last competition at the Rainbow Wahine Invitational, Oct. 31. Smith closed the fall with four consecutive rounds better than par.
Smith opened the season by tying for sixth with an even-par 216 at the Ptarmigan Ram Fall Classic in Colorado, Sept. 17-19, and added a tie for eighth with a 210 (71-68-71) at the UNLV Collegiate Showdown. She posted a 73.23 fall stroke average.
She has fired 21 rounds better than par in her career, including a season-best second-round 68 at UNLV (Oct. 22). Smith owns a school-record 73.68 career stroke average over 73 rounds. 
Bouvet, Baete Make Early Impact to Lead Big Red Freshmen
Vanessa Bouvet and Kirsten Baete made major impacts for the Huskers while playing in their first collegiate tournaments in the fall of 2018-19.
Bouvet (Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei) produced possibly the best performance by a Husker freshman in a career-opening event with her two-under-par 214 to tie for third individually in the 75-player field at the Ptarmigan Ram Fall Classic in Fort Collins, Colo., Sept. 17-19. 
Bouvet’s second-round 68 tied for the second-best round ever by a Nebraska freshman. Bouvet was tied for the tournament lead with two-time All-Big Sky golfer Tara Finigan with three holes to play.
Bouvet closed the fall with a tie for second in the rain-shortened Rainbow Wahine Invitational, Oct. 31. She ranked second among the Huskers with a 74.00 stroke average in the fall.
“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.”
Another powerful young player, Baete improved her scores significantly in all three rounds at the Ptarmigan Ram, including a two-over 74 in the final round. Baete (Beatrice, Neb.) matched Bouvet for the Huskers’ second-best individual score of the final round.
Baete opened with a 75 at the Golfweek Conference Challenge (Sept. 24-26), then closed by tying her season best with a 74 in the final round on her way to a career-best 231 tournament total. She tied that career best with another 231 at the UNLV Collegiate Showdown, including a career-best 73 in the final round (Oct. 23).
Baete was the 2016 Nebraska Class B State High School Champion and enjoyed a strong redshirt season in 2017-18.
“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.”
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 in 2016-17. 
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. 
Thiele continued to see those improved results in Colorado, finishing in a tie for 35th (228) at the Ram Fall Classic. Thiele improved her scores (77-76-75) with each round at the season-opening tournament.
The improvement continued the following week back in Colorado at the Golfweek Conference Challenge (Sept. 24-26). Thiele led the Huskers with a three-round total of 219 to tie for 21st. Her effort included a season-best 69 in the final round.
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.
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 she opened her sophomore year with lineup spots at the Ptarmigan Ram Fall Classic and the Golfweek Conference Challenge. 
She finished the fall strong with five consecutive rounds of 73 or better to lower her fall stroke average to 76.00.
Ahmed, Smith Featured in 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 be featured among the Faces of the Big Ten created by the Big Ten Network in 2018-19.

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