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Cretin-Derham Hall's Celia Kuenster

The tree-lined fairways of Bunker Hills in Coon Rapids will be filled with spectators starting Tuesday for the Class 3A boys’ and girls’ golf state tournaments. In a season defined by tough playing conditions, the two-day meet is expected to bring out plenty of curious parties to see some of the state’s top high school talent on display.

Pressure? You bet.

But Cretin-Derham Hall junior Celia Kuenster likely takes a different approach than some.

“This is the most relaxed time of year,” said Kuenster, the two-time defending girls’ champion, last week after playing a practice round at Bunker Hills. “It’s just such a cool environment having all the best players in the state at one place and the atmosphere of family and friends. I really enjoy playing in it.”

After tying for the title as a freshman, Kuenster last year set a big-school state record with her 5-under-par 141 total. The long-hitting Gophers recruit typically waits to do her damage, feasting on the trio of par-5s on the back nine. Kuenster sealed her second individual championship with birdies on three of the final four holes en route to a 4-under 69.

Kuenster is one of five players back who finished in the top 10 in Class 3A last spring. That group includes New Prague junior McKenzie Neisen, last year’s leader after Day 1 who wound up two shots back of Kuenster.

Neisen and her Trojans teammates are back to defend their team title and do so without longtime coach Matt Shetka, who died of a heart attack while shoveling snow in December.

Class 3A boys

Only two of the eight teams in the boys’ Class 3A field — Rogers and Forest Lake — participated at Bunker Hills a year ago.

“Every team needs that kid who can score low,” Rogers coach Dan Bursheim said. “Every team has one. Some have two or three. In a two-day event, it comes down to who is playing their best.”

After the Royals were trailing after nine holes in their section match, Bursheim was pleased to see his golfers rally to take the championship.

“That’s the kind of mindset you have to bring into the [state] tournament,” he said. “It’s been such a short season because of the weather. Our guys weren’t ready to be done yet.”

Note

• In addition to New Prague in Class 3A girls, three other teams have the chance to defend this week: Detroit Lakes in girls’ and boys’ Class 2A, and Legacy Christian in boys’ Class 1A. Individually, Kuenster joins freshman Kate Smith of Detroit Lakes (girls’ Class 2A) and senior Cordell Weber of Martin County West (boys’ Class 1A) as returning champions.

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