2024 High School Prep Preview

March 15, 2024 | 8 min.
By Nick Hunter

Taking advantage of a mild Minnesota winter, high school golfers across the state may see the earliest start to the golf season in more than a decade.

Minnesota State High School League guidelines allow spring team practices to begin on March 18th this season, followed by the start of competition 10 days later. 

Dating back to 2014, no spring season has kicked off prior to April 5.

Class AAA
The Edina boys golf team claimed its seventh team title in school history last season at Bunker Hills, blazing the field with a 19-stroke victory over Maple Grove to earn its fifth championship over the past five seasons.

The Hornets lost one player from their 2023 championship team, but return junior Torger Ohe the 2023 Minnesota Golf Association Junior Boys’ Player of the Year, who placed third individually at the Class AAA championship, as well as senior Jimmy Abdo, who finished tied for 11th.

Maple Grove will look to return to the state tournament in search of its first state team win since 2021, but will be without four starters from last year’s state tournament squad.

The Crimson will be led by seniors Ryan Stendahl, a University of Minnesota commit, who capped off his junior season with a fifth-place finish in 2023, and by Gavin Grahek, who finished tied for 35th at the Class AAA championship.

Despite a fourth-place finish in 2023, Mahtomedi return its top four starters from a year ago and will contend in Class AAA with juniors Jacob Wilson and Thomas Meader at the helm.

Coming off a 10-stroke victory at the Class AAA championship in 2023, the Maple Grove girls’ golf team retains its top two performers in 2024: senior Amelia Morton and freshman Annika Hendrickson.

The Crimson will have to fend off last year’s runner-up in Wayzata, who will return all six starters from a season ago, including seniors Saachi Deshmukh, Kiersten Lawrance and sophomore Lauren Chambs.

A young Minnetonka team turned heads a season ago by placing third, 23 shots back of Maple Grove. The Skippers lost two players from 2023, but will once again be led by freshman Kieley Hanson and sophomore Selena Wu.

Class AA
Peyton Savageau and University of Oklahoma commit Andrew Ramos led Totino-Grace to its first team title in program history last season at Ridges at Sand Creek, edging the boys from Holy Family by four strokes.

Now seniors, Savageau and Ramos will lead the way in Class AA once again in 2024. 

Holy Family, who claimed back-to-back team titles in 2018 and 2019, will be right back in contention as the Fire return all six players from the 2023 team, led by seniors P.J. and Mick Herron, and sophomore Ryder Carlson.

Falling short of its bid for three consecutive team titles, Lake City looks to bounce back from a three-stroke loss to Pequot Lakes at the girls’ Class AA championship in 2023.

The Tigers will be without three starters from last year, but return seniors Ella Matzke and Jordana Windhorst-Knudsen, both of whom notched top-10 finishes at Ridges at Sand Creek in a year ago.

Redwood Valley looks to build on a fifth-place finish from last season as the Cardinals return four starters from 2023 including senior Mila Jenniges, who claimed a top-10 finish at the Class AA championship.

Also looking to contend in 2024 will be the girls from Holy Angels, who placed sixth in 2023. The Stars return five players this season, and will be led by eighth-grader Elizabeth Fong again in 2024. Fong placed tied for 18th in 2023.

Class A 
Falling to Lakeview by seven shots last season, the boys from Walker-Hackensack-Akeley should return to form in 2024, bringing back five starters from last year’s tournament team, including their top three finishers.

The Wolves will have to contend with Evan Villagomez and the rest of the Heritage Christian Academy team, who return all six starters from last season’s tournament.

The Girls from Lac Qui Parle Valley earned the third team title in school history last season, edging Fillmore Central by a single stroke.

The Eagles lost top finisher Isabella Jacobs, but will get a strong push from senior Kaitlyn Kittleson and sophomore Molly Halvorson, who both finished tied for fifth in Class A last season.

Coming off her three-stroke individual title last year, senior Raquelle Nelson will once again lead Legacy Christian Academy, looking to improve on a third-place team finish in 2023. Nelson will get help from sisters Emily and Bri Brandt.

Although the girls from Park Christian placed fourth in 2023, the Falcons remain intact for the 2024 season, returning all six starters, including junior Anika Stromme and sophomores Hailey Frueh and Kylee West, all of whom claimed top-20 finishes at the Class A tourney.

Mr. Minnesota Golf
Jake Birdwell (Spring Lake Park): A University of Illinois commit, enters the season as the state’s top-ranked golfer. At No. 284 in the Rolex AJGA Rankings, Birdwell followed up his runner-up finish in section 5AAA by earning a two-stroke individual victory at the Class AAA championship, firing an opening-round 6-under 66. In 18 events, Birdwell carried a 70.6 scoring average. He would also advance to match play at the 2023 U.S. Junior Amateur at Oakland Hills Country Club, in Bloomfield Township, Mich.

Ryan Stendahl (Maple Grove HS): The University of Minnesota commit continued his late-season push in 2023 by earning medalist honors at the section 5AAA championship before placing fifth at the Class AAA championship, helped by an opening-round 69. In 21 events, Stendahl had a 72.2 scoring average, including a season-low 66. 

Andrew Ramos (Totino-Grace HS): Carded a final-round 69 to earn medalist honors at the section 5AA championship before placing in a tie for fifth at the Class AA tournament. Ramos played 11 high school events in 2023, posting a 72.4 scoring average. He qualified for the 2023 U.S. Junior Amateur at Oakland Hills Country Club and will play collegiate golf at the University of Oklahoma.

Peyton Savageau (Totino-Grace HS): Posting a 74.2 scoring average over 17 events in 2023, Savageau was instrumental in Totino-Grace’s run to the Class AA team title. He placed tied for fifth at the section 5AA tournament, which included a season-low round of 69 before he finished runner-up individually at the Class AA season finale. He went on to notch a pair of victories at the Twin Cities Junior Championship and the Minnesota Boys’ Junior PGA Match Play Championship. 

Evan Villagomez (Heritage Christian Academy): Fired a season-low in May to help post a 74.1 scoring average for the 2023 season. Carded a final-round 72 to finish runner-up at the section 4A championship. His opening-round 73 helped guide Heritage Christian Academy to a fifth-place finish at the Class A championship.

Ms. Minnesota Golf 
Reese McCauley (Simley HS): A pair of late birdies lifted McCauley to a two-stroke victory at the Class AAA championship in 2023—her second individual victory in three seasons. McCauley led all three classes with a 69.8 scoring average for the season, firing three consecutive rounds of 68 during her final three rounds of the season. McCauley enters the 2024 season as the state’s top-ranked high school golfer, and looks to become the fifth golfer in state history with three individual titles. She will join older sister and 2022 Ms. Minnesota Golf winner, Isabella, at the University of Minnesota this fall.

Saachi Deshmukh (Wayzata HS): Deshmukh improved on her opening-round 75 by carding a final-round 73 to place sixth at the Class AAA state tournament. She finished seventh in Class AAA with a scoring average of 74.4, helped by a season-low 70. Deshmukh claimed medalist honors at the section 6AAA championship to lead Wayzata to its eighth state tourney appearance. 

Lily Vincelli (Cretin-Derham Hall): Bouncing back from an opening-round 79 at last year’s Class AAA championship, Vincelli carded a 1-over 73 to finish ninth at the season finale. She finished eighth in the state with a 74.6 scoring average, carding a season-low 72 coming at the class 4AAA section championship to earn medalist honors by nine strokes. Vincelli will begin her freshman season at North Dakota State University this fall. 

Jordana Windhorst-Knudsen (Lake City HS): Windhorst-Knudsen opened the 2023 Class AA championship with a 75 to place tied for eighth at Ridges at Sand Creek after earning medalist honors at the section 1AA tournament at Northern Hills Golf Club. Windhorst-Knudsen finished fourth in Class AA with a 76.8 scoring average in 15 events, with a season low of 69.

Racquelle Nelson (Legacy Christian Academy): Following her individual win at the 4A section championship, Nelson opened the 2023 Class A championship with a 79, on her way to a three-stroke individual title while leading Legacy Christian Academy to a third-place finish. Nelson finished fifth in Class A with an 84.9 scoring average in 12 events.

Nick Hunter

Nick Hunter got his start covering sports for the Mankato Free Press while attending Minnesota State University, Mankato. 

He then contributed to several online outlets, including Bleacher Report, prior to turning his focus to golf.

Hunter enters his 12th season covering golf in Minnesota as news editor for the MGA website. He resides in New Prague with his wife and two sons.

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