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Torger Ohe walks down the fairway of the first hole on Braemar Golf Course. An Edina junior, he is sporting his school colors of green, yellow and black with white shorts.

A head cover on the driver in his bag doesn't match his garb. It's maroon with a "Row the Boat" logo.

Gophers sports teams are often criticized for not being able to lure the state's best homegrown talent to Dinkytown to represent the University of Minnesota. That charge won't stick with the golf programs, men's or women's.

Ohe is one of four of the state's best golfers who have committed to the Gophers. They are three boys and a girl, representing four different high schools, four different conferences and four different home courses.

Ohe will be joined by Maple Grove senior Ryan Stendahl and Cretin-Derham Hall junior Joe Honsa in the men's program. Simley senior Reese McCauley will join her older sister, Isabella, who recently won the Big Ten Conference individual championship, on the women's squad.

"I always dreamed of golfing for Minnesota," Ohe said. "I've been a Gopher fan since I was born, always cheering for them. It was an easy decision to make."

The Gophers coaches, Justin Smith with the men's team and Rhyll Brinsmead with the women's team, have placed an emphasis on Minnesota student-athletes, connecting with high school players and their coaches.

The high school coaches see it. Edina boys coach Mike McCollow indicated they appreciate it.

"The first thing you have to do as a new coach is lock up your borders. That's the most natural part," McCollow said. "You have to get the best players in your state every year. The Gophers haven't done a good job of that in previous years. They are now."

Smith was hired as the men's coach in 2019 after serving as associate head coach and assistant coach in the program since 2014. Brinsmead was brought on as the women's coach two years later after a 13-year tenure at Kennesaw State in Georgia.

"I love a challenge," Brinsmead said. "Minnesota is a special place. It's a golf-crazy state."

Talent abounds

The three boys headed to the U are all contenders to win the Class 3A state championship. They all finished in the top five in the state meet a year ago at Bunker Hills Golf Club — Honsa was the runner-up, Ohe took third and Stendahl fifth. Honsa is ranked second in the state by the Minnesota Golf Association, Stendahl is No. 4 and Ohe No. 7.

They also have succeeded as team golfers. Ohe has been a member of back-to-back Class 3A team championships with the Hornets, who have won three of the past five titles. Stendahl was a member of Maple Grove's team championship group in 2021.

"It will be fun to be a part of this group of guys that will be representing Minnesota and our home state," Honsa said. "We will be a highly competitive team."

The McCauley sisters have been special individually. Reese is the state's No. 1-ranked girls player and a two-time Class 3A state medalist (2021 and 2023). Isabella was the 2019 Class 3A champion.

"We've been eagerly awaiting this day, adding another McCauley to the roster," Brinsmead said after Reese signed her letter of intent in November. "Anyone that knows golf in the state of Minnesota knows the McCauley name. Reese is one of the most sought-after recruits in the class of 2024. After her run to the quarterfinals at the 2022 USGA Girls Junior she could literally have gone to any school she wanted. I'd expect her to make an immediate impact on the team."

Reese McCauley imagines a Big Ten championship and an NCAA tournament bid in her future.

"Anything is possible," she said. "We should have a really good team."

Border control comes first

Both Gophers coaches realize they can't keep all of the state's best at home. That doesn't mean they won't try.

"When you have talent in state you want to keep it home," Brinsmead said. "Our first approach is in-state golfers, but Minnesota isn't for everybody. We're already looking down the list of 2025 and 2026 players. We are always keeping our eyes open."

Smith has been particularly successful recruiting Minnesota. The men's 10-player roster this season included six players from Minnesota.

"Our recruiting starts and stops in Minnesota," Smith said. "I think the level of play and kind of prospects that come out of Minnesota has really grown. I'm always crazy excited to recruit as many players as I can from our home state. We probably won't ever have a full roster of them, but they are the heart and soul of our team."

Both U coaches blend the local talent with national and international recruits. Smith has players from Peru and Scotland; Brinsmead has players from China, Mexico, Singapore and Thailand.

Cretin-Derham Hall coach Bob Kinne said the diversity of recruits, and their skill level, indicate the U's success.

"I think it is showing how much the Gophers program is growing with getting top players not only within their home state but throughout the world," he said.

Facilities provide boost

The John W. Mooty indoor golf facility, opened in January 2019, has provided a helping hand for the U.

"That has been such a game-changer," Smith said. "When we can't go out and golf we can get as close to that in the new facility."

The school didn't previously have an indoor training space, something other programs across the conference and throughout the nation have enjoyed for decades.

It features heated indoor hitting bays and greens for putting and chipping. It also has locker rooms for both teams, offices for the coaching staffs, a lounge for students and a Hall of Fame to celebrate the achievements of both programs.

"I don't feel we are at a disadvantage now, especially in the spring season when we travel south to play," Smith said. "We have tried to turn Minnesota golf into a 12-month season the best we can."

The indoor facility is on the school's St. Paul campus, adjacent to the Gophers' historic Les Bolstad Golf Course.

"The Gophers have made tremendous strides in improving their facilities in order to give their athletes the best chance to compete at the highest level of Division I golf," Kinne said.

Working together

Brinsmead and Smith, who took different paths to Minnesota and have different coaching philosophies, work together tightly.

"We are very close," Brinsmead said. "We chat a lot. We will talk about our teams to each other."

Brinsmead is relatively new to the state. Smith has been tied to the Gophers since he started playing for the U in 2000. He was a three-time All-America pick and made the winning putt when the Gophers won their lone NCAA team championship in 2002.

"Justin has a little bit different motivation here than me," Brinsmead said.

It's a motivation Smith explains simply.

"I just want Minnesota golf to thrive at the highest level it can no matter what that is," he said.

It's all made easier by simply walking a course while Minnesota high school players compete.

"It's good to be out there and develop a Minnesota connection," Brinsmead said. "The one thing you can do is always be present. It's important. It's part of the job. It's all-encompassing. That's how you develop relationships."

The players notice.

"The coaches are awesome," McCauley said. "They were the ones who came out the tournaments and watched me the most. I liked the time commitment they had made for me."

Stendahl said his time with Smith has him headed confidently into college golf:

"I first met Coach when he was out watching us play," he said. "He's a professional and cares about every kid on the team. He can take Minnesota talent and turn them into the best players in the country. I'm excited to be going to Minnesota."