COON RAPIDS, Minn. (WCCO) — The high school golf careers of three phenomenal girls came to an exciting end Wednesday at the class AAA Minnesota State High School golf tournament at Bunker Hills Golf Course in Coon Rapids.
That’s because the competitive trio of Celia Kuenster, Sarah Burnham, and Kenzie Neisen have dominated play over the past four seasons.
It would be natural to have a case of butterflies before teeing off in yet another state tournament. But for New Prague’s Neisen, it’s familiar turf.
According to her coach, Dan Holgate, the senior found her game at the right time.
“She has potential, and she had some great rounds but hasn’t been playing the way she wants to,” Holgate said. “She’s kind of struggling even though they’ve been around par.”
In her first round on Tuesday, Neisen shot an amazing 36-31 for an 18 round total of 67. She would end the day tied for the lead with Wayzata’s Burnham, who shot 33-34.
Neisen was the 2012-13 individual co-champion with Wayzata’s Burnham. And the two years before that they’d finish behind Cretin-Derham Hall’s, Kuenster who won individual honors back to back.
They’ve been called the best girl’s golf trio in state history, and their performances this week would back up the claim.
“If Celia and McKenzie weren’t in golf with me in high school,” Burnham said, “I wouldn’t be the player I am today.”
As expected, all three of the senior golfers would excite the Bunker Hill’s gallery as they drove the ball for distance and drained some incredible putts. Kuenster dropped a 35-footer on the fourth hole for birdie.
“We all have seen each other’s games,” Neisen said, “and we want to get better and take it more seriously.”
Burnham and Neisen entered the day tied for the lead. All eyes were on the leaderboard as the girls completed their two nine-hole rounds.
But it wasn’t decided until the final hole on the west course, when Burnham’s putt fell painfully short.
“It’s been so fun growing up playing golf against these girls,” Neisen said. “We all look forward to the state tournament and getting to compete against each other.”
All three girls are getting full-ride golf scholarships, but down deep say they will miss the camaraderie of their high school competitors.
Burnham may have finished one-off the lead for medalist honors, but she helped her school win the team championship.
Wayzata finished 19 strokes ahead of the Alexandria girls.