Prep golf 2024: Top players and teams (and a bunch of future Gophers)

Future Gophers

The Gophers get criticized for not being able to keep the state's best homegrown talent. That's not the case on the links. The Gophers have commitments from the No. 1 girls player in the state, Simley senior Reese McCauley, and three of the top boys players, Maple Grove senior Ryan Stendahl and juniors Joe Honsa of Cretin-Derham Hall and Torger Ohe of Edina. McCauley, the Star Tribune's Metro Player of the Year in 2023, will join her older sister, sophomore Isabella, on the Gophers' women's roster. Isabella was the Class 3A medalist in 2019; Reese is a two-time state champion (2021 and 2023). Honsa finished second, Ohe third and Stendahl fifth in the boys state meet a year ago.

Looking for more

Four defending state champions are returning, looking to go back-to-back. On the boys side, Spring Lake Park senior Jake Birdwell is the Class 3A champ, and Staples-Motley junior Carter White reigns in Class 2A. On the girls side, McCauley is in place, and senior Raquelle Nelson, who won Class 1A last season, and her Legacy Christian team move up to Class 2A. Birdwell is an Illinois recruit and the 2023 boys Metro Player of the Year, and Nelson is headed to Division I Bellarmine in Louisville, Ky.

Team title defenses

A difficult task is ahead for anyone hoping to keep the defending team champions from winning again.

All three boys title holders — Edina in Class 3A, Totino-Grace in 2A and Lakeview in 1A — are favored again in 2024. Edina is looking to three-peat and have won three of the five past titles, the other being in 2019. They were 19 strokes better than runner-up Maple Grove a year ago. Maple Grove won the other two titles (2018 and 2021) in that span. There wasn't a state tournament in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Totino-Grace has an outstanding 1-2 punch in seniors Andrew Ramos and Peyton Savageau. Ramos is headed to Oklahoma, and Savageau is bound for Division I Queens University of Charlotte, N.C.

The girls defending champions — Maple Grove in Class 3A, Pequot Lakes in 2A and Lac qui Parle Valley in 1A — figure to be in the running again.

The Crimson welcome back their top two golfers in senior Amelia Morton and freshman Annika Hendrickson. Morton is headed to St. Thomas to team up with Class 3A two-time individual champion Kathryn VanArragon of Blaine.

Lake City, Class 2A champion in 2021 and 2022, has a shot to dethrone Pequot Lakes this spring.

Moving on up

The top of Legacy Christian's girls lineup isn't hard to figure out. The Saints, the Class 1A team champion in 2022, have the individual champions from the past two years in Nelson, who won last season, and senior Emily Brandt, who won in 2022. That doesn't mean Legacy Christian doesn't have to adjust this season, because it is moving up to Class 2A.

"The girls have had to adjust their goals for this year with the move up to Class 2A," Saints coach Dan Nelson said. "We will have to compete against talented teams like last year's Class 2A third-place finisher Providence Academy and Totino-Grace in Section 5. Just earning a bid to the state tournament would be a huge accomplishment for our team this year. I look forward to helping my girls enjoy the season and rise to the new challenge of Class 2A competition."

Youth movement

The time is now to start thinking about the future. Here are five young boys and girls golfers to keep an eye on this spring:

Boys: Spring Lake Park freshman Chase Birdwell; Holy Family sophomore Ryder Carlson: White Bear Lake eighth-grader Easton Fiddle; Edina sophomore Sander Ohe; Totino-Grace sophomore Collin Ramos.

Girls: Maple Grove freshman Payton Anderson; Minnetonka freshman Kieley Hanson; Maple Grove freshman Annika Hendrickson; St. Michael-Albertville eighth-grader Abigail Labrador; Minnetonka sophomore Siyu Wu.

A look around the state

Outstanding golfers don't reside strictly in the metro area. Here are five of the best boys and girls from outside the Twin Cities:

Boys: Rochester Mayo junior Isaac Ahn; Lakeview junior Carson Boe; Alexandria senior Jack Holtz; Rochester Mayo junior Tim Sexton; Staples-Motley junior Carter White.

Girls: Hawley junior Sophie Cook; Park Rapids senior Anna Eckmann; Detroit Lakes senior Hanna Knoop; Lake City senior Ella Matzke; Lake City senior Jordana Windhorst-Knudsen.

Ten metro boys players to watch

Jimmy Abdo, Edina, senior

Jake Birdwell, Spring Lake Park, senior

Miles Bollinger, Cretin-Derham Hall, senior

Joe Honsa, Cretin-Derham Hall, junior

Landon Miller, St. Louis Park, junior

Torger Ohe, Edina, junior

Andrew Ramos, Totino-Grace, senior

Peyton Savageau, Totino-Grace, senior

Ryan Stendahl, Maple Grove, senior

Sam Udovich, Cretin-Derham Hall, junior

Top five boys teams

1. Edina

2. Totino-Grace (Class 2A)

3. Holy Family (Class 2A)

4. Maple Grove

5. Cretin-Derham Hall

Ten metro girls players to watch

Saachi Deshmukh, Wayzata, senior

Emerson Garlie, Northfield, senior

Ava Hanneman, Orono, junior

Kieley Hanson, Minnetonka, freshman

Reese McCauley, Simley, senior

Amelia Morton, Maple Grove, senior

Raquelle Nelson, Legacy Christian, senior

Jovie Ordal, Lakeville South, senior

Lily Vincelli, Cretin-Derham Hall, senior

Siyu Wu, Minnetonka, sophomore

Top five girls teams

1. Maple Grove

2. Wayzata

3. Minnetonka

4. Edina

5. Northfield