New coach swings into role

Interim coach Kristine Wessinger hopes to develop a young team.

Brian Deutsch

While several University coaching changes have garnered the national spotlight, interim women’s golf coach Kristine Wessinger has slipped under the radar and into her first head coaching position.

Wessinger officially took over the program during winter break, after former Gophers coach Katie Hanneman resigned to spend more time with her family.

But handling the day-to-day tasks of a coach was nothing new to Wessinger, who led Minnesota this fall while Hanneman was on maternity leave – making the transition between coaches literally nonexistent.

“The transition was very easy,” junior Emily Brand said. “A lot of the basics were the same (between the two coaches). (Wessinger’s) positive attitude is her best attribute, though.”

And Wessinger has had a lot to be positive about over the past few months.

First, the Gophers closed out the fall season with a first-place finish at the DeBarry Intercollegiate, the first time since the 2001-2002 season that Minnesota won an event that it did not host.

Then the head coaching job opened up just after Wessinger and new husband, Tim, returned from their honeymoon.

“It has been extremely exciting and it’s definitely a dream come true for me,” Wessinger said. “It came at a great time too.”

The Minneapolis native was quick to credit her former mentor with helping her develop as a college golf coach after having spent close to five years working under Hanneman.

“Katie showed me the ropes,” Wessinger said. “I’d like to take some of her coaching ideas and develop my own style of coaching.”

A St. Thomas graduate, Wessinger was a two-time Division III National Championships participant and was the 1999 Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference champion.

Foreshadowing her future role as a leader, Wessinger was the Tommies’ team captain during her junior and senior years.

“I always knew that I wanted to be a coach,” she said. “The Minnesota assistant job opened up when my brother Ryan was playing for the men’s team and (men’s coach) Brad James mentioned it to me.”

Wessinger and Hanneman both joined the Gophers staff for the 2002-2003 season, but quickly faced a doubtful future.

The women’s golf program was on the verge of extinction, but solid recruiting on the part of both coaches kept the program alive.

So when Hanneman resigned on Jan. 2, Wessinger went right to work on preparing her squad for the spring season.

Wessinger brought in Terra Petsinger, who played for Minnesota from 2001-2005, to serve as assistant coach, giving the team another instructor who already has experience with the team.

“A few of us were teammates with Terra when she was here,” senior Samantha Braschler said. “She knows our styles of play very well.”

Minnesota has struggled somewhat since Wessinger and Petsinger officially took over the reigns of the program, but the team’s recent woes haven’t deterred Wessinger’s beliefs that her team has potential.

“We’re a young team and we’re still developing,” she said. “The more experience we get, the better we’ll get.”