Photo by Scott Bruhn/Nebraska Communications

Huskers Journey to Pinehurst Challenge

By NU Athletic Communications

The Nebraska women’s golf team makes a quick turnaround to continue its fall campaign at the 2017 Pinehurst Challenge in North Carolina, Oct. 9-10.

The Huskers, who are coming off a runner-up finish at their own Chip-N Club Invitational at Wilderness Ridge Golf Course in Lincoln, Oct. 1-3, will face one of their largest fields of the year at the Pinehurst Challenge. The 19-team tournament hosted by the College of Charleston will provide a deep and balanced field for the Huskers to challenge. The field is headlined by traditionally strong East Carolina and includes Big Ten foe Maryland.

The two-day tournament begins with 36 holes of continuous play after a shotgun start at 7:30 a.m. (CT) on Monday, Oct. 9 on Pinehurst No. 1. The three-round tournament concludes with the final 18 holes on Tuesday, Oct. 10 with a shotgun start again at 7:30 a.m. (CT).

Nebraska Coach Robin Krapfl and the Huskers will be looking for continued improvement after a solid but not spectacular showing at the Chip-N Club Invitational. Audrey Judd captured her second career tournament title with a three-round score of 218 (76-72-70) over three days of challenging conditions at Wilderness Ridge. The senior from Olathe, Kan., and reigning Big Ten Golfer of the Week improved her team-leading stroke average to 73.50 on the young season with her third consecutive top-10 tournament finish.

Sophomore Annie Sritragul (Bangkok, Thailand) was also in position to challenge for the tournament title before settling for a seventh-place finish after a career-best 225 (75-72-78). Sritragul, who entered the Chip-N Club’s final round in second place, also notched her third straight top-10 finish.

Fellow sophomore Kate Smith added a ninth-place finish at the Chip-N Club, but Haley and Hannah Thiele struggled at times in the No. 4 and 5 spots in the Husker order.

Pinehurst Challenge

Location: Pinehurst, N.C.
Course: Pinehurst Resort #1 (Par 72/5,974 Yards)
Monday, Oct. 9, 7:30 a.m. (CT) - Shotgun (36 holes)
Tuesday, Oct. 10, 7:30 a.m. (CT) - Shotgun (18 holes)
Live Scoring: GolfStat.com (9-Hole Scoring)

Participating Teams (19)

  • Charleston Southern
  • Coastal Carolina
  • College of Charleston
  • East Carolina
  • Elon
  • Georgia State
  • Jacksonville
  • Jacksonville State
  • James Madison
  • Maryland
  • Nebraska
  • North Florida
  • Old Dominion
  • Presbyterian
  • Samford
  • Towson
  • UAB
  • UNC Greensboro
  • William & Mary

Nebraska Lineup

  1. Audrey Judd (Sr., Olathe, Kan., 73.50 avg.)
  2. Annie Sritragul (So., Bangkok, Thailand, 74.50 avg.)
  3. Kate Smith (So., Detroit Lakes, Minn., 75.50 avg.)
  4. Haley Thiele (So., Wahoo, Neb., 78.00 avg.)
  5. Hannah Thiele (Fr., Wahoo, Neb., 80.60 avg.)
    IND - Noor Ahmed (Fr., Folsom, Calif., 78.38 avg.)

Judd Earns Big Ten Award After Chip-N Club Victory
Audrey Judd continued her strong start to her senior season with her second career tournament title by sharing medalist honors at the Chip-N Club Invitational at Wilderness Ridge Golf Course in Lincoln, Oct. 1-3.For her performance in Nebraska’s home tournament, Judd earned her second career Big Ten Golfer-of-the-Week award, and NU’s second weekly conference honor of the young season joining Kate Smith’s honor following her runner-up finish at the UNO Invitational, Sept. 1-2.

Judd stormed back from a four-shot deficit on the final day of the Chip-N Club with a two-under-par 70 to share the crown with UC Irvine’s Janet Yeo with a three-round total of 218. It was Judd’s third consecutive top-10 finish to open the season and her fifth in her last seven tournaments overall dating back to her first career win at the 2017 Westbrook Spring Invitational in Peoria, Ariz., Feb. 26-27. She fired a career-best 209 including a career-best 68 in the final round on her way to her first tournament title.

Judd opened her senior season by taking fourth (225) at the UNO Invitational, Sept. 1-2, then tied for ninth (74-71-145) at the East & West Match Play Challenge on Sept. 17. Through eight rounds, Judd leads the Huskers with a 73.50 stroke average.

Smith Claims Big Ten Award with Runner-Up Finish at UNO
Nebraska’s Kate Smith earned the Big Ten’s inaugural Golfer-of-the-Week award on Sept. 6, 2017, after her career-best runner-up finish at the season-opening UNO Invitational, Sept. 1-2. 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. 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, who added a ninth place finish at Nebraska’s Chip-N Club Invitational, Oct. 1-3, owns six top-10 tournament finishes and nine top-25 showings in her young career. She has fired 10 rounds better than par in her career.

Sritragul Strengthening Strong Sophomore Class
Annie Sritragul has shown drastic improvements in her game since arriving on the Nebraska campus as a 16-year-old from Bangkok, Thailand.

As a true freshman, Sritragul made nine lineup appearances for the Big Red and posted a 77.86 stroke average over 28 rounds. Her stroke average ranked fourth among the Huskers. Her top finish in a three-round stroke play event came with a 42nd-place showing at the 2017 Clover Cup in March.

Through three fall tournaments, Sritragul’s improvement is undeniable. The sophomore owns a 74.50 stroke average through eight rounds and has produced a trio of top-10 tournament finishes. She is coming off a career-best three-round score of 225 at the Chip-N Club Invitational, Oct. 1-3, when she entered the final round in sole possession of second place before settling for a seventh-place finish.

Sritragul, who celebrated her 18th birthday just days before the 2017 Chip-N Club Invite, opened the season with a tie for ninth at the UNO Invitational (229), before taking fourth over two rounds of stroke play at the East & West Match Play Challenge. Her effort in Wisconsin included a career-best, opening-round 70.

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.

Sophomores Shaping 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 receives 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 sophomores Annie Stritragul (No. 2), Kate Smith (No. 3) and Haley Thiele (No. 4) make up the nucleus of the Husker lineup at the Pinehurst Challenge behind senior Audrey Judd (No. 1) and ahead of freshmen Hannah Thiele (No. 5) and Noor Ahmed (individual).

Sritragul (3), Smith (2) and Haley Thiele (1) have combined for six top-10 tournament finishes through Nebraska’s first three events of the 2017 fall season.

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. She played solid golf in Wisconsin, finishing with rounds of 76 and 78 to close at 154 in a tie for 36th at the East & West Match Play Challenge, Sept. 17. Both of Ahmed’s scores counted toward Nebraska’s team total.

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, but she made her first appearance as an individual at the East & West Match Play Challenge, Sept. 17-19. She opened her career with a 76, before settling for an 84 in the second round.

She earned her first career lineup appearance at Nebraska’s Chip-N Club Invitational, Oct. 1-3, and will make her second consecutive appearance in Nebraska’s top five at the Pinehurst Challenge, Oct. 9-10.

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. 

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