Redman taking summer without in-person contact with players in stride

The Gophers' women's golf team is prepped for a strong fall season, after the spring season was canceled due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Redshirt Christine Portillo tees off at the sixth annual Minnesota Invitational at the Prestwick Golf on Monday, Sept. 10. 2018.

Tony Saunders

Redshirt Christine Portillo tees off at the sixth annual Minnesota Invitational at the Prestwick Golf on Monday, Sept. 10. 2018.

Matthew Kennedy

For the last eight seasons, head coach Michele Redman has worked to instill a winning culture within the Gophers’ women’s golf program. 

Joining the program in August 2011, Redman has seen great success with young golfers. Two Gophers’ freshmen, Joanne Free and Grace Kellar, ranked in the top-five debut seasons in program history during the 2017-18 season. Recently, rising sophomore Grace Curran won the Minnesota Women’s Match Play Championship, making it back-to-back wins for the Gophers, with Kellar earning the victory in 2019. 

Before the spring season was canceled amid the coronavirus pandemic, the Gophers secured its first top-10 tournament finish, placing seventh at The Gold Rush in late February. While the pandemic has presented its challenges, Redman has found a bright spot. 

“I feel like over coronavirus I’ve actually been connecting with the girls more than I would have during a normal summer,” Redman said. “I’m checking in on them a little bit more to see how they are doing, so, even though our facilities are closed, we are still talking to each other through team Zoom calls. It’s been interesting and very cool to learn and connect with the girls more and learn about their lives outside of golf.” 

Additionally, Zoom has been a vessel for recruiting. Rather than in-person meetings and attending events, Redman has contacted the majority of recruits through virtual means. 

“Recruiting right now is pretty challenging with tournaments around the state and country not allowing an audience. But we now are pretty lucky to have scouted well the recruits that we are most interested in before this pandemic started,” she said. “But, it is still difficult to see how those kids are continuing to improve without me or other people on our staff being there with them in person on the course.”

Although the John W. Mooty Practice Facility has been closed, the team is still prepping hard for the fall season. Three starters on the team competed in the Minnesota Match Play, and players have been consistently working on their game, playing on courses across the country. 

And while many spring seniors have been forced to make the difficult decision of whether to return for the 2020-21 season, the Gophers did not have any seniors on its roster. With the full roster returning and the addition of incoming freshmen, more experience and talent will remain on the team moving forward. 

“I think it’s great that our kids get another year of eligibility because they never had a chance this season to compete for conference championships, and the team has more chemistry for a larger amount of time,” Redman said.

Redman’s primary goal before the fall season starts is to make sure her players have the right mindset. 

“We should continue to work on improving even if we are not all together or if I’m not there coaching. The challenge for our players is to train on their own and have the same great mental mindset as you would during a regular offseason,” she said. 

Redman enters her ninth season at the helm navigating the challenges of the pandemic. With a full roster returning and incoming freshmen entering the mix, the Gophers have a great chance to make some noise in the fall.

“Luckily, compared to other sports like soccer, basketball and football, is that our players usually train more independently,” Redman said. “Golf also as a sport, especially in the state of Minnesota, has been nice during the pandemic with all courses in the state cleared to be open early on in April. So compared to other sports, I’m confident that our golfers will be ready to roll in the fall.”