Season Preview: Red Wing girls golf aims to rebuild after championshipThe Red Wing girls golf team knows this season probably won’t end with another dip in the pond at the Minnesota girls state golf tournament but the Wingers hope, and expect, plenty of success as the reigning Class 2A state champions.
By: Chris Harrell, The Republican Eagle
The Red Wing girls golf team knows this season probably won’t end with another dip in the pond at the Minnesota girls state golf tournament but the Wingers hope, and expect, plenty of success as the reigning Class 2A state champions.
“They’re the same school but they’re not the same team,” Red Wing head coach Mark Herzog said. “Our top three are as good as anybody in the state. We’re just not quite as deep.”
The Wingers graduated four of their top six golfers from last season’s championship, the fourth in program history. The Wingers will also be asked to adjust to different competition in the postseason this year. Red Wing moves from Class 2A to Class 3A and will compete in section 1AAA. Senior Katie Kesti said there is always pressure to succeed but the unfamiliarity of the upcoming season leaves a lot of unknowns.
“Even without the four (graduated seniors), we’re in a completely different new class, we’re in a completely different section,” Kesti said. “We don’t have any expectations because we don’t know who we compare to.”
The expectations will be significantly lower but that doesn’t mean Herzog doesn’t foresee improvement as the season progresses.
“The big thing is for everyone to find their ceiling and get to it this year,” Herzog said.
Last season’s state title was remarkable because of the way Red Wing performed at the state meet. Even taking away their top scorers, Marisa Toivonen and Nikki Pasch, the Wingers would have still taken first place.
Danielle Brooks, now golfing at Division I Drake University, and Pasch came in ninth in the state individually while Ashley Brooks and Anna Bush, both seniors, shot an 83 and an 84, respectively, on the final day of the state tournament.
“You’re not just going to replace them with another eighth or ninth-grader,” Herzog said. “Kids take a little time to develop. They’re probably a year or two away. There will be a drop off.”
But the Wingers did bring back two top golfers to lean on this season. Seniors Toivonen and Kesti return to give Red Wing consistency as it attempts to rebuild another state champion. Toivonen signed to play golf for Augustana College in Sioux Falls, S.D. and Kesti committed to play for the University of Nebraska-Omaha.
“We’ve got younger girls who will step up, they’re just a little young,” Toivonen said. “We’ll be there to show them how much it means to get (to the state tournament).”
Both Toivonen and Kesti finished in the top five individually at last year’s state meet. Toivonen was fourth and Kesti ended in a tie for fifth place. Now, the two lone seniors will be asked to lead by example for the talented underclassmen.
“They’re as good as any 1-2 in the state,” Herzog said. “That’s definitely the strength (of the team). They’ve played a lot of big tournaments. Nothing’s a surprise. The older kids have expectations and maybe the younger kids can simulate those expectations.”
One golfer the Wingers are counting on to develop is sophomore Nicole Schammel. Last year, Schammel was Red Wing’s No. 7 golfer for the varsity team but Herzog said her scores were good enough but were overlooked because of Red Wing’s incredible depth. He said her hockey skills — she finished eighth in the state in scoring as a sophomore this season — actually keep her from getting the attention she deserves as a golfer.
“Her scores were low,” Herzog said. “She’s not going to be intimidated by anything. If she focused on just golf, she’d be identified as a golfer instead of a hockey player.”
Red Wing gets its first look at a new group Monday at the TPC of the Twin Cities against Irondale.
“We’ll still have a good team, just not as deep,” Herzog said. “If every kid plays to their potential, we’ll have a nice team.”