Grace Kellar is right where she belongs on the golf course

The sophomore is coming into her own after an attention-grabbing first season.

Freshman Grace Kellar drives the ball during the Minnesota Invitational on Monday, Sept. 11, 2017 at Prestwick Golf Club in Woodbury, Minnesota.

Ellen Schmidt

Freshman Grace Kellar drives the ball during the Minnesota Invitational on Monday, Sept. 11, 2017 at Prestwick Golf Club in Woodbury, Minnesota.

by Nick Jungheim

Sophomore Grace Kellar’s success on the course shouldn’t come as a surprise to anybody. It always seemed likely she would become a great athlete. The only question was, in which sport?

“I grew up playing a lot of sports,” Kellar said. “Basketball was actually my main one until, I’d say about 8th or 9th grade. I was always involved in sports, I was always watching sports, and my parents were both really supportive of whatever I chose to do.”

In fact, Kellar’s parents are no strangers to athletics themselves. Her father, Mark, was a standout running back for Northern Illinois University. He was drafted by the Chicago Fire of the now defunct World Football League in 1974 before eventually joining the NFL for three seasons with the Minnesota Vikings. 

However, it was Kellar’s mother, Andrea, who introduced her to golf. She was a star golfer for the University of Miami in Florida and helped carry the team to a national championship. She then went on to win the state amateur championship in Florida before having a brief professional career.

“I started liking golf a little more than basketball,” Grace Kellar said, “I enjoyed it more and it was fun to be able to play with my mom.”

It certainly appears she made the right decision. In high school, Kellar played an integral role on her team and helped Edina High School capture three consecutive Minnesota state titles in girl’s golf between 2015 and 2017. During that period, Kellar caught the attention of Minnesota head coach Michele Redman.

“She’s got an excellent golf knowledge,” Redman said of Kellar. “Every year she just continues to get better.”

In her first season with the Gophers, Kellar posted a stroke average of 76.88, the fifth best mark for a freshman in program history. However, her sophomore year got off to an even better start.  At the Minnesota Invitational, she posted a total score of two-under overall, highlighted by a second-round mark of 68. Those figures both represented career-bests for Kellar, as did her finish on the leader board, tied for third place. Her impressive performance earned her recognition as the Big Ten Golfer of the Week.  

The success came as no surprise to her head coach, who has witnessed the effort Kellar has put into improving her game, particularly when it comes to the mental challenges golf poses.

“One thing I would guess she’s worked the hardest on is the mental side,” Redman said.  “Learning how to accept a shot that isn’t exactly where she wants it, being able to forget about it, and move on. That’s been huge for her.”

Redman hopes to see similar results from fellow members of Kellar’s sophomore class, which she figures will play a key role in the future success of the program. Of the nine players currently on the roster, five are in the sophomore class.  

“They’re going to be game changers,” said Redman. “They’re going to keep getting better and growing. They’ve all put a lot of hard work in.”

With such a large core group together on the team for three more seasons, the Gophers hope to improve upon their 2016-17 campaign, in which they finished 11th at the Big Ten Championships. For now, Kellar is focused on enjoying her time at the University of Minnesota, on and off the course.

“I love my teammates,” Kellar said. “Having them has made the experience [at Minnesota] so enjoyable. The coaches, everybody in the athletic department, they’re all just amazing. Everything about being an athlete [at Minnesota] has been really cool.”