Braschler’s experience helps guide team

Brian Deutsch

When asked what her role on the Minnesota women’s golf team is, senior Samantha Braschler summed up what teammates and coaches said about her.

“I try to make everything a little lighter and a little bit more fun,” Braschler said. “I’m a little more relaxed because I’ve been through it all before.”

And with five years of college golf experience, Braschler is also helping a young Gophers’ program to mature in her final season.

“She’s one of those leaders that kids really respect,” interim coach Kristine Wessinger said. “I think a lot of the girls look up to her. They are able to talk to her; she’s a very easygoing person, so she’s very approachable.”

One of those girls who Braschler has taken under her wing is freshman Leslie Grabeman, who roomed with the senior during her first collegiate tournament this fall.

“(Samantha) helped me relax and put everything into perspective,” Grabeman said. “She just brings a lighter side to the team, which is good because sometimes it can be overwhelming.”

That same overwhelming feeling could be responsible for the dwindling numbers Minnesota has faced in recent years when the future of the program was in doubt.

Braschler has firsthand experience with the problem, as she has seen her class drop from four members to one in the past year alone.

“You know golf is a tough sport and it’s tough mentally,” Braschler said. “A lot of people just end up getting burnt out.”

But the senior saw a change in her team since joining the Gophers in the 2004-05 season – especially in the recruiting under former coach Katie Hanneman as well as Wessinger.

“We’re starting to get the top recruits from the state,” Braschler said. “We were losing all of them before due to the uncertainty (of the program).”

Braschler would know about how the team used to lose all of the in-state talent to other schools – she was one of those players.

Playing at Red Wing High School, Braschler captained the girl’s golf squad for three years, as well as lettering five times and helping the Wingers win state championships in 2001 and 2002.

But after graduation, Braschler had a difficult choice to make concerning her golfing future. She could either play for Michigan State or take a chance on Minnesota, where the future looked dim.

Braschler chose the Spartans and redshirted her first year in East Lansing. The next year, she played in just one event.

After her second year at Michigan State, Braschler decided to transfer to Minnesota – which was fine with Wessinger, who was serving as an assistant at the time.

“When we heard she was going to transfer from Michigan State, we were thrilled,” Wessinger said. “Her leadership, her knowledge of the game and her play has made her a good asset to this program.”

Braschler came out strong in her first year at Minnesota, playing in all 10 events that season and finishing in the top 10 twice.

Her sophomore campaign also saw Braschler land the highest finish of her college career when she finished fourth at the Minnesota Invitational.

The Red Wing native found even more success that summer when she won her second-straight Minnesota Match Play.

After a slight drop in tournaments during her junior year, Braschler has made appearances in all three spring events during her final season – perhaps signaling one final run at the Big Ten Championship before the environmental geography major graduates and leaves Minnesota again.

But don’t be surprised if the golf clubs re-emerge a few years down the road, according to Braschler – this time as a coach.