Cretin-Derham Hall golfer above par at school

| Julie Pfitzinger | August 16, 2011 | 0 Comments

St. Joseph parishioner youngest ever to win state amateur tourney

Celia Kuenster

Celia Kuenster, a member of St. Joseph in West St. Paul and soon to be a sophomore at Cretin-Derham Hall High School, has blossomed as a golfer. Kuenster, pictured at Somerset Country Club in Mendota Heights, recently became the youngest golfer ever to win the Minnesota Women’s State Amateur Golf Tournament. Photo by Dave Hrbacek / The Catholic Spirit

At the age of 15, Celia Kuenster has already developed the kind of game that golfers more than three times her age have been striving to achieve on the course for years.

Last month, she became the youngest woman ever to win the Minnesota Women’s State Amateur Golf Tournament, beating the age of the previous record holder — 1978 winner Jody Rosenthal (now Anschutz) — by three months.

Kuenster is also the first student from Cretin-Derham Hall High School in St. Paul to win the tournament.

Kuenster has a quiet, confident demeanor that allows her to excel on the course. Winning the state amateur championship by seven strokes, she shot 74 on each of the first two days of the event and 72 on the last day — that day’s score was better than any posted during the tournament at Hastings Country Club.

Kuenster said she was simply playing her game. While she knew she was under par and probably in the lead, she didn’t quite know for sure.

Her parents, Ellen and Mike Kuenster of Mendota Heights, parishioners at St. Joseph in West St. Paul, also believed their daughter was winning but didn’t monitor her official progress.

“They were updating the scores every few holes. I knew I could have tracked it on my smart phone, but I decided not to,” Ellen said with a laugh.

A first-class competitor

Kuenster’s penchant for golf began when she was in first grade and she and her twin brother, Will, would head to the Mendota Heights Par-3 golf course with older brother Nolan, now 19. (She also has a sister, Megan, 17).

“The three of us would compete and I really liked it,” said Kuenster, who added that her brother Will is also “a really good golfer.”

As a seventh-grader at St. Joseph’s School, Kuenster competed in the Catholic Athletic Association golf tournament and easily won the girls’ division. She didn’t compete in the CAA tournament during her eighth-grade year due to a conflict with final exams, but she was continuing to improve her game, playing and practicing regularly.

During her freshman year as a member of the CDH golf team, Kuenster tied for the Class AAA individual championship in the girls’ state high school golf tournament and then went on to win the Minnesota Junior Girls’ State Championship (18 and under division) earlier this summer.

Through the course of competing, both at CDH and in other tournaments, Kuenster has gotten to know many of her competitors on the course, which Ellen believes is a big boost to the sport for young players.

“Celia has really become friends with many of the girls. Since you don’t play directly with your teammates, but with others who have your same spot on their team, you are spending four hours on a course together,” Ellen said. “She’s spent most of her summer with these girls and enjoys her time with them.”

Since the summer competition season has ended, Kuenster continues to practice and play several times per week, often at Somerset Country Club in Mendota Heights or with her golf pro, Brent Snyder (current Minnesota PGA Match Play champion) who works with her out of the Troy Burne Golf Club in Hudson, Wis.

Showing her Raider pride

Kuenster and her brother Will will soon be starting their sophomore years at Cretin-Derham Hall, where she said her favorite subject is history. Golf is not her only sport — she was also a member of the girls’ varsity basketball team at CDH last year.

Her “Raider pride” is evident during every golf game: a bracelet that was a gift from her parents spelling out “Go Raiders” is one of the items she can’t be without on the golf course, along with a coin given to her by her grandmother that she uses for divot repair.
Although college is three years away, Kuenster knows she would like to continue to play competitively, only stipulating at this point that any college she attends would be “someplace warm.”

There is a lot of time to be spent on the golf course between now and then. For now, the entire Kuenster family is enjoying a daily reminder of how Celia spent her summer vacation: The Minnesota Women’s State Amateur Championship trophy is still sitting on the family’s kitchen table.

“It’s a traveling trophy, so we get to keep it for the whole year,” Kuenster said with a smile.

The determination and skill of a young Mendota Heights golfer just might keep it on that table for quite some time to come.

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