Photo by Scott Bruhn/Nebraska Communications

Huskers Return to Ohio for Big Ten Championship

By NU Athletic Communications
The Nebraska women’s golf team returns to Ohio for the second straight weekend, this time to contend for the Big Ten Conference Championship, April 19-21.
The Huskers and 13 other Big Ten women’s golf programs will take on the par-72, 6,357-yard layout at TPC River’s Bend in Maineville, Ohio, beginning with the first round on Friday, April 19 at 7:30 a.m. (CT). Tee times continue for the second round on Saturday at 7:30 a.m., before the final round concludes with tee times beginning at 7 a.m. Live scoring for the tournament will be provided by GolfStat.com.
Nebraska enters the conference tournament as one of 12 Big Ten teams ranked among the top 90 in the nation. No. 16 Northwestern and No. 19 Michigan State enter the tournament as favorites. Michigan State has won four Big Ten Tournament titles and Northwestern has added a share of three tourney titles since Nebraska joined the conference in 2012.
No. 30 Illinois, No. 33 Purdue, No. 49 Penn State and No. 50 Maryland give the Big Ten six programs ranked among the top 50 nationally, while No. 56 Indiana, No. 57 Ohio State, No. 69 Michigan, No. 83 Rutgers, No. 88 Nebraska and No. 90 Wisconsin give the conference strong challengers throughout the league.
Michigan State won the 2018 Big Ten title at TPC River’s Bend with a three-round total of 859 (-5) in the six-count-four format. It was the second straight title for the Spartans. Maryland and Illinois tied for second, while Nebraska finished 13th at 905 (300-302-303). Nebraska’s best Big Ten finish came with a sixth-place showing in its first conference season in 2012.
Big Ten Championship
April 19-21, 2019
Maineville, Ohio
TPC River's Bend (Par 72, 6,357 Yards)
Tournament Schedule
Friday, April 19 (Tee Times) - 7:30 a.m. (CT)
Saturday, April 20 (Tee Times) - 7:30 a.m. (CT)
Sunday, April 21 (Tee Times) - 7 a.m. (CT)
Live Scoring: GolfStat.com
Participating Teams (14)
  • (16) Northwestern
  • (19) Michigan State
  • (30) Illinois
  • (33) Purdue
  • (49) Penn State
  • (50) Maryland
  • (56) Indiana
  • (57) Ohio State
  • (69) Michigan
  • (83) Rutgers
  • (88) Nebraska
  • (90) Wisconsin
  • (108) Minnesota
  • (126) Iowa
Nebraska Lineup
1. Kate Smith
2. Vanessa Bouvet
3. Haley Thiele
4. Kirsten Baete
5. Megan Whittaker
6. Hannah Thiele
Smith Shoots for Third Straight Record-Setting Season as Husker
Junior Kate Smith hopes to contend for individual honors at the Big Ten Championship in 2019. Smith tied for 19th individually at last year’s Big Ten Championship and just missed an NCAA Regional bid. She tied for 37th as a freshman but did earn a spot in the 2017 NCAA Regional field.
She enters the tournament with a school-record 73.32 stroke average on the season. She is ranked No. 188 overall in the GolfStat player rankings, which is 20th among the 27 Big Ten golfers ranked in the nation’s top 250 by GolfStat.
In 2017-18, Smith smashed a school record with her 14-under-par 202 at the 2018 Westbrook Spring Invitational (Feb. 25-26). She added the second-best tournament in school history with her 208 (-8) at the 2019 Westbrook Spring Invitational (Feb. 24-25).
She is coming off a 12th-place finish at the Lady Buckeye Invitational (April 13-14) - the 20th top-25 finish of her career.
Smith owns three career Big Ten Golfer-of-the-Week awards. She posted a career-best second-place finish at the 2019 Westbrook Invitational.
Smith opened the fall 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 has fired 24 rounds better than par in her career, including a school-record 64 (-8) in the second round of the 2018 Westbrook Invite. She shot a season-best 68 in the second round at UNLV (Oct. 22) and in the second round at Westbrook (Feb. 24). Smith owns a school-record 73.62 career stroke average over 82 rounds. 
Baete, Bouvet 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 third-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. “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 produced one of the best tournaments by a freshman in school history with her 210 (-6) in helping the Huskers win the Westbrook Spring Invitational (Feb. 24-25). Baete (Beatrice, Neb.) notched her first career top-25 finish by tying for fifth in a loaded field. Her second-round 66 was the best round by a freshman in school history. 
She added a tie for 29th (229) at the Lady Buckeye Invitational (April 13-14) after tying for 30th with a 229 at the Clover Cup (March 15-17). Her 76.64 stroke average ranks fourth among the Huskers.
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.”
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 then-season-best 69 in the final round.
Thiele helped the Huskers to a tournament title at Westbrook with a season-best 68 (-4) in the second round, after shooting an even-par 72 in the opening round. She finished in a tie for 35th with a season-best 218 for the tournament.
Although Thiele may experience ups and downs that go along with making major swing adjustments, she could 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. 
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.
Ahmed, Smith 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.
Hannah Thiele Hopes to Fight Pain to Contend for 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.
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. 

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