NORTHFIELD, Minn. -- The Carleton College women’s golf team heads into the 2013-14 season—its 16th as a varsity program—with a solid nucleus of returners and newcomers that should see the Knights continue its recent run as one of the top teams in the conference and region.
The Knights open the season ranked No. 24 in the preseason Women’s Golf Coaches Association/Golf World Division III top 25. They’re one of four ranked teams in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (MIAC), joining: Gustavus Adolphus (13), St. Olaf (20) and St. Thomas (22). The Oles are the two-time defending conference champions, having edged the Knights by 10 strokes at the 2012 MIAC Championships, as Carleton finished a program-best second.
Highlighting the returning players is junior Kelsey Moede (Lake Oswego, Ore.), an All-MIAC and all-region performer a year ago. She finished runner-up at the MIAC Championships and was one of only three players in the conference with a sub-80 stroke average (79.95). That mark was also a school record. She narrowly missed a spot as an individual at the NCAA Championships.
“We’re very fortunate to have one of the top players in the conference in our line-up,” Carleton head coach Eric Sieger said. “We know she’s going to be in the mix at nearly every tournament we play, and her steady play should help us since we’re pretty young.”
Taylor Wells (Jr./Rochester, Minn./Century), who ranked second on the Knights’ squad a year ago with an 81.36 stroke average, will miss the fall season while on a study abroad experience in Namibia. The two-time all-conference and all-region selection will return for the spring season.
“Obviously, not having Taylor is a loss for a us, but we’re very excited for her and the experience ahead of her,” Sieger said. “Study abroad is something we encourage in our program, and I think we have the depth to overcome her absence.”
A prime candidate to step in Wells’ role is sophomore Grace Gilmore (Edina, Minn.), who looks much improved, according to Sieger, after an uneven rookie campaign. She won the team’s 45-hole qualifying tournament for the weekend’s first event, and hopes to build on a solid spring season that saw her lower her stroke average by 1.56 shots.
Sophomore Mara Daly (St. Louis Park, Minn.) rounds out the returners, and is one of four players to play every single round a year ago.
The incoming class of Knights is the largest in program history, and three of those four qualified in the starting five for the Georgianni Memorial Invite this coming weekend. Geraldine Tellbuescher (Ashiya, Japan/Canadian Academy) and Shannon Holden (Simi Valley, Calif./Royal) are both alumni of the highly competitive Southern California PGA Junior Tour, and were both nationally ranked players coming out of the class of 2013. Holden will hold down the second spot in the Knights’ starting five this weekend, while Tellbuescher is fourth. Holden is a three-time All-Ventura County pick and was named to the All-Los Angeles area second team last fall. She also competed in the Callaway Junior World Championships in 2008 and 2009. Tellbuescher, meanwhile, won the Thunderbird Junior Classic in Arizona last summer, as well as two other SCPGA junior events.
“Both Shannon and Geraldine have competed against some of the best junior golfers in the world on the SCPGA, so we feel like they will make the transition to college golf pretty smoothly,” Sieger said. “They’re both very experienced players, and we’re excited to work with them and have them on our team.”
Joining this dynamic duo are Illinois standouts Kate DeMeulenaere (Elk Grove Village, Ill./Elk Grove) and Maggie Corso (Palos Park, Ill./Providence Catholic). DeMeulenaere qualified for the Illinois Class AA state tournament last fall, finishing T34th, while also earning all-conference honors for the Grenadiers. Corso, a two-time sectional qualifier for the Celtics, was also a starter on their girls soccer team in the spring.
This marks the first time for Sieger that he’s had more than six golfers, meaning it will be a bit more competitive to get into the starting five. Corso rounds out the starting five the first weekend, but Sieger expects a tight battle weekly.
“All seven of the players on our roster this fall are very capable, strong college golfers, and while it’s a bit of a contrast for us as we’ve typically had smaller rosters, healthy competition can only make our program stronger,” he said. “I think, at some point during the season, everyone on our roster will make an appearance in that top five.”
All four ranked MIAC teams will be in action at this weekend’s Georgianni Memorial Invite, along with host and No. 25 UW-Eau Claire. UW-Whitewater and defending WIAC champion UW-Stout are also in the field; the Warhawks and Blue Devils also received votes in the Golf World poll. Six-time Iowa Conference champion Wartburg College, who also garnered votes in the coaches’ poll, is in the field as well.