Gophers recruiting class convenes at WWGA Championships

Incoming freshmen Heather Ciskowski, Sabrine Garrison and Celia Kuenster competed in the WWGA last week.

Joe Perovich

In 2014, the Gophers women’s golf team experienced its best year under head coach Michele Redman.

That, combined with the strong recruiting class coming in, has Redman optimistic about what’s ahead.

The sources of Redman’s optimism — incoming freshmen Celia Kuenster, Heather Ciskowski and Sabrine Garrison — all participated in the Women’s Western Golf Association National Amateur Championship last week.

The trio made it through the first two days of qualifiers to advance to match play.

Ciskowski turned in the best finish, winning two matches before losing in the third round. Kuenster and Garrison both won their opening matches but lost in the second round.

The Lancaster Country Club in Lancaster, Pa., which is also home to the 2015 U.S. Women’s Open, held the tournament for its 114th year.

“It was cool to be on the grounds … and see what the difficulties are going to be,” Kuenster said. “It’s a tough course, and it will be fun to walk next year and hopefully be there.”

Kuenster chose to stay in state to play for the Gophers, but Redman said she “could’ve gone wherever she wanted.”

The tournament was the first experience for the three to play together because they all hail from different locations.

Kuenster is a local recruit, but Ciskowski is from Barrington, Ill., and Garrison is from Alberta, Canada. Ciskowski said the lengthy distances between the future teammates adds value to the rare instances when they’re together.

Redman said building those foundational relationships early sets the table for the following four years and beyond.

“In my mind, one of the most important things for the recruits when they’re making a decision on where they want to go is, ‘Is it a good fit for me? Do I like the rest of the girls on the team? Am I going to be comfortable here?’” Redman said. “And I think we’ve done a really good job of that with them.”

Ciskowski, Garrison and Kuenster met one another for the first time in October on official campus visits.

There was something unique in all three of them coming together in Lancaster to do what they’ll be doing for the next four years, Ciskowski said.

“We went out to dinner together, we were hitting on the range together [and] we were cheering each other on,” she said. “Celia had lost [her match Thursday] afternoon, but she came out and watched me play mine, so that was really nice. That team bonding is going already. It was a really fun dynamic.”

The Big Ten has been strong on the women’s side, making it necessary to be at the forefront of recruiting at all times, Redman said.

Minnesota will lean on Kuenster, Ciskowski and Garrison early and often — something the incoming freshmen are well aware of.

“We know how good the team [became] this year and saw the progress they made,” Kuenster said. “[We] know that with how talented [we] three are, we can really make an impact and get to nationals this year and really go for a national championship. … I think with the talent that we have, we could really make a big difference.”

Redman said the incoming recruits are a rarity because they represent the “complete package” — good students, good players and competitiveness.

“Not to take anything away from the kids that we have … but as far as résumé, I think this is one of the best classes that we’ve ever had,” Redman said.