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Gopher women’s golf looking to build program around McCauley

Isabella McCauley’s learning curve and performance this past season has brought Minnesota women’s golf back on the national stage.
Image by Photos courtesy of Brad Rempel
Isabella McCauley at the first day of the Big 10 Championships on April 21, 2023.

Isabella McCauley recently completed her first-year season with the Gopher women’s golf team after competing against 155 golfers from 36 universities in the NCAA National Championship.

McCauley’s growth throughout the season not only motivated herself, but her teammates as well. Head coach Rhyll Brinsmead is hoping to build on McCauley’s growth for the betterment of the rest program.

McCauley’s performance on the fairways did not pick up until the latter part of the season. She said it was around March when she noticed a turning point in her game.

“I kind of just changed my mentality a little bit and I was like –– you know –– I’m going to try and go into it and just have a good time and be a little bit less worried on the score and the outcome,” McCauley said. “It definitely seemed to start paying off and I was having a lot more fun in the rounds.”

The mental shift McCauley had led her to be the Big Ten women’s “Golfer of the Week”, as well as a tie for second place at the Big Ten Tournament and 6th place at the NCAA Westfield Regional.

As a college athlete, McCauley had a lot of exposure playing in different climates and courses, said Brinsmead. A Minnesota native, McCauley had played mostly in her home state before coming to the University of Minnesota.

Brinsmead said one of the learning curves McCauley had while playing in different climates was adjusting to the different grass types. In Minnesota, most golfers play on bentgrass. But down south courses contain Bermuda grass, which is a lot grainier and ultimately inhibits how shots are executed.

“That was a big challenge for her but she had to really learn how to play because obviously for us, in the spring, we’re traveling south out to Arizona for all of our events so we were mainly on bermuda grass,” Brinsmead said.

McCauley’s learning did not stop on the course, as a freshman athlete coming to a big school, she was adjusting to being around more people. 

McCauley said the team dynamic was great and team dinners after a tournament were routinely unforgettable moments for her. With seven members on the team and four or five that traveled to tournaments, McCauley said getting along with each other came very easy.

“Even though it’s so simple, it’s always so memorable with them,” McCauley said. “We all just have different things to add to a conversation.”

Fifth-year Grace Curran said the tight-knit community allows for each member to act as a leader in their own way.

“We are so lucky in the fact that we are all so close and it really doesn’t matter if you are a freshman or super senior like myself, we all have something to learn and take away from one another,” Curran said.

Curran announced her decision to return to the team on May 24, along with teammate Emma Carpenter. The two hope to act as leaders to an overall younger team.

I definitely plan to lead by example, Curran said. “I hope to be a role model for my teammates just as they are for me.”

With McCauley’s big finish on the national stage, Brinsmead is hoping to attract some more talent to the Minnesota golf program.

Brinsmead noticed a mutualistic relationship with McCauley on the team as she started to elevate the game of her teammates. The team saw McCauley’s work ethic which motivated them to work hard and McCauley had learned how to be a college athlete from the more senior members on the team.

“We had a great team dynamic and it was fun to watch how they help each other in different ways,” Brinsmead said.

When McCauley elected to stay in Minnesota, Brinsmead said it shifted the way people look at the Minnesota women’s golf program.

“For the McCauley name in the state of Minnesota, when she chose to stay home, that was a big deal for the state –– that was a big deal for golf fans within the state to see that Bella chose to attend Minnesota,” Brinsmead said. “I think most of them thought she was going to go somewhere else.”

McCauley said she knew the potential Minnesota had and knew Brinsmead would take the program in a good direction.

“We know we’re good and now we’re able to bring the spotlight back to Minnesota,” McCauley said. “It’s only trending upward and this is just the start for us.”

For now, McCauley is taking a break from golf to mentally relax and recharge before she returns to playing at her home course at Southview Country Club this summer. By July, she plans to resume her usual routine of five to seven hours of practice six days a week.

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