New Prague’s girls’ golf program was without an identity. It was just another average high school team in the state of Minnesota. Then along came the sisters Neisen.
The Trojans quickly transformed into a state power. They have won the Class 3A state championship twice in the past four years, and are coming off a third-place finish in 2013.
“New Prague golf was really nothing until the Neisens came around,” Trojans coach Dan Holgate said. “It all started with Steffi, and has continued with McKenzie. They have raised the bar for everybody else in the program.”
Steffi is completing her senior season as a member of the University of Nebraska women’s squad. McKenzie is competing in her final prep season before heading off to Oklahoma State to play in the Big 12 Conference.
“I played for fun when I first started,” Neisen said. “Once I took it seriously, we became more competitive. Being influenced by my sister made we want to get better.”
Neisen is ranked No. 2 in the state. She is surrounded by two of her friends, Sarah Burnham of Wayzata at No. 1 and Celia Kuenster of Cretin-Derham Hall at No. 3. Burnham is headed to Michigan State while Kuenster will play for the Gophers.
“We’ve played a lot of golf against each other growing up,” Neisen said. “It’s helped us all become better golfers. We’ve had to become more creative in our games.”
Neisen shared the individual state title with Burnham a year ago. Kuenster, the 2012 state champion, finished third.
Neisen recently broke her own school record of 68 with a 4-under-par 67 during the New Prague Invitational at Creeksbend Golf Course. She was even-par through five holes.
“She amazes me day-after-day on how good she is,” Holgate said. “She can scramble during a round, and still shoot par. She hits the ball further than everybody, and is good around and on the green. She really doesn’t have any weaknesses in her game.”
The Trojans also won the team crown in the invitational with a school-record 313. Their previous record was a 315.
“They hadn’t been happy with their scores until that meet,” Holgate said. “Our top six players all shot their season low in that meet.
“Now, we’re hoping we can get on a roll. That meet gave them confidence, and golf is a lot about confidence.”
Neisen’s teammate, sophomore Taylor Ledwein, is ranked eighth in the state. She recently carded a 1-under-par 71 in a Missota Conference meet. Senior Taylor Krouse and junior Caitie Barr are also back from last year’s state tournament said.
“We lost two seniors, and are trying to replace them with some ninth-graders,” Holgate said. “We definitely have high hopes of making it back to state.”
First and foremost, New Prague would like to repeat as Missota Conference champions. The Trojans and Red Wing are expected to battle it out for the title.
“It’s the last year of the conference, and it would be nice to finish it off with a title,” Holgate said. “Every conference match is a battle with Red Wing. They are one of the top teams in the state, and have been the last 20 years.”
Then, the Trojans will turn to bigger and better things.
“It’s every team’s goal to make it to state, but it’s a very realistic one for us,” Holgate said.