It was May 9. The skies were blue, the wind howled through Bluff Creek Golf Club as construction trucks worked out on Highway 101.
The weather felt much like out on the prairie, reminiscence of a round at Dacotah Ridge near Redwood Falls. Ironic that day would have been round one of the Marshall Invitational.
Memories flooded back for Chanhassen senior golfers Courtney Dunkelberger, Tricia Hemann, Emily Renner, and Courtney Wedin.
The Morton Inn. Complimentary muffin and coffee from the attached gas station a perk of a night stay. Renner remembered wanting to sleep on the bus. The group laughed, shared stories of what each motel room looked like. They talked about the weather those two days, their round scores.
Those memories certainly better than a lost 2020 season.
“We started missing tournaments. The day our first meet was supposed to happen here (Bluff Creek), it was sad,” Renner said.
“I think it’s the stages of grief,” Wedin said. “Crying ...”
“I don’t think that’s one of them,” Dunkelberger said.
“Okay, fine, anger, grief,” Wedin said.
“In the beginning I had hope, I shouldn’t have had, but I did,” Hemann said. “Now that it has sunk in, knowing all of will play in college, I know that someday we’ll play again.”
Hemann, Renner, Wedin and sophomore Madi Hicks should have been back in Morton — hopefully a stay at Jackpot Junction this time — defending the team title. Halfway through the spring golf season, just weeks away from sections. A month away from defending the Class 3A state title.
Instead, the trio of seniors picked up caps and gowns from Chanhassen High School May 9, talked about summer golf plans, and looked to the future in continuing the sport in college. Dunkelberger, who had elected to focus on school this spring, a full-time PSEO schedule, is ready for the challenge ahead as well.
“I look at it two ways. Yes, we had this great chance. We had so much coming back. We knew the teams we had to beat. Roseville, Simley were our biggest competitors. But we won state last year. We didn’t finish second, end our season last year in heartbreak. We’ll always have that moment and we’re still the defending champions until next year,” Wedin summed up.
David Kalthoff believes the 2020 Storm girls golf team had the opportunity to be even better than the 2019 version. A group that won sections by 40 strokes. A group that bested the state field, including Edina, to win the program’s first state championship.
Kalthoff, who said the Class of 2020 will be “truly missed,” compiled awards and honors for the trio. The list extended past 50 bullet points.
Wedin, runner-up at state individually in 2019, was a five-time letter-winner, all-state twice, all-conference four times, and holds the program record for lowest score at state with a 36-hole score of 145.
Kalthoff said Wedin would have been the favorite for the Ms. Golf Minnesota award this season.
“One of my goals I set for myself in 2018 was to make the top 10 at the state tournament. I didn’t even come close to reaching that goal. In fact, I underperformed that whole season. This only motivated me further to develop my game in the off-season, and my mindset was ‘I don’t know if other girls are doing this, but I am doing this so I know without a doubt how to hit this shot in the future coming out of winter, when most girls don’t,’” Wedin said.
When 2019 came around, I set a goal ‘place in the top 10 at the state tournament,” and in parenthesis next to this I said, ‘Get on that podium Courtney!’ To me this was a reach goal, but so much more attainable with all the hard work I put in,” she added.
Hemann, a four-year letter-winner, earned a victory at Ridges at Sand Creek in a sophomore tournament. She was all-conference the last two seasons, placing 40th at state in 2019, which included a score of 81 in her final round.
Hemann improved each year and knows the best was yet to come.
“I think what made us so successful was we went out there and played. Whatever happened, happened,” Hemann said of the 2019 team.
“We put our heads down, we grinded it out, and being the best last year was just something that came along with it,” Dunkelberger said.
For Renner, a two-time captain, she was a three-year letter-winner and two-time all-conference selection for Chanhassen. Her consistent rounds of 82 for a 28th-place individual finish went a long ways to help the Storm secure a state title.
Additionally, Renner was the 2017 JV MVP award winner, 2018 Varsity Rookie of the Year and the 2019 Varsity Team Captain Leadership Award.
What made Chanhassen so tough to beat last spring was the depth one through six in the line-up. A top-four score could come from any position, and many times did from Renner and Dunkelberger.
“Speaking as a person who was a fifth or sixth position golfer, it took a load off my shoulders. I’m a bipolar golfer. Some days I’ll have my best round, and then the next day I’m in the 90s,” Dunkelberger said. “When you have the depth we had, you walk off the course and you don’t feel like you let down the team, you let down yourself.”
“The beauty of our team was we could be confident in each others. We never expected one player, or two players, to carry the team,” Renner said.
In the end last season, it came down to six Chanhassen golfers playing with the same mindset.
“We worked so hard while still having fun, because after all, golf is still a game and at the end of the day, if you aren’t enjoying it then why are you playing?” Wedin said.
Wedin had a list of 35 questions for each recruiting visit. What is your indoor facilities look like? How can you promise to take care of me during these four years”
In the end, one place, the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks, topped all others with the answers.
“I felt like I could really thrive in the environment the school provided, and they do have an amazing hockey team,” joked Wedin, who will study accounting in the business school. “The location is great. The coach is a sweetheart. When comparing everything, UND was right for me.”
Let the record state, Hemann said, she pegged Wedin for North Dakota territory a few years ago.
Wayne State for Hemann was a bit different story. A member of the Division II Northern Sun Conference — the southernmost school — playing at the level was the perfect fit.
“Yes, it is the Nebraska Wayne State. ... It’s really windy in Nebraska. I’m not sure I’m ready for that. ... I just liked the feeling when I got to the campus. They’ve redone so many buildings on campus and it’s a brand new team, so that’s exciting,” Hemann said.
Renner landed at the College of St. Benedict outside of St. Cloud, a Division III school in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
“It felt like home. It was a good fit for me. D3 allows me to focus on academics as well as golf. It’s the best of both worlds,” Renner said.
Dunkelberger is planning on a double major in real estate and finance at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul.
“I wanted the full college experience. I wanted to more focus on academics than golf. I love golf, it’s near and dear to my heart, but I felt like I was better suited to play recreationally or competitively whenever I wanted to,” she said. “I’m thankful to have gone out with this team on a high note. I feel super blessed to have had that opportunity to win state, put together two great days to clinch the championship.”
Walking off the Bluff Creek course, the four seniors laughed, they joked, they told inside jokes from bus rides and post-tournament stops at Culver’s or Cane’s for dinner.
Hemann summed up everything perfectly.
“It’s high school golf. We’re here to make memories. We’re here to hang.”
Memories they made. A (reordered) state championship banner they hung.