Written by Seth Wisner
For Gustavus senior Katie Schenfeld, she didn’t have a choice on whether or not she would play golf. Receiving her first pair of golf shoes the day she was born from her godfather and golfing for as long as she can remember with her father and older siblings at her local country club in Iowa, Schenfeld grew up around the game of golf. She has transformed that passion and love for the sport into a great deal of success golfing for Gustavus, while also excelling in the classroom as a double major.
Schenfeld’s journey to Gustavus from the small town of Indianola, Iowa began with a simple online search. “Honestly, I hadn’t even heard of Gustavus. My high school counselors hadn’t heard of Gustavus either,” Schenfeld explained. “I was just looking around online for colleges with a golf team and a health fitness program. I came for a visit and loved it.”
After researching Gustavus, Schenfeld contacted Head Coach Scott Moe to find out more about the golf program. “He didn’t know a lot about me because I was from Iowa. He told me it was a competitive golf team. He was honest with me and told me there was only one opening,” Schenfeld said.
Even though she was not heavily recruited, Schenfeld landed the last spot on the team in her first year at Gustavus. “Katie came in kind of as an unknown. I had never recruited in Iowa. I knew she had played well in high school, but I had nothing to compare it to,” Moe said. “I knew from day one that she would compete. She was very solid from tee to green.”
Schenfeld has done nothing but compete at a high level for the Gustavus Women’s Golf team, including winning back-to-back MIAC Championships (in the fall of 2009 and 2010) and recording a fifth place finish at last year’s NCAA Championships. She attributes the majority of her success to the development of her mental toughness since coming to Gustavus.
“Coming in as a freshman, I was a complete disaster in the mental game. Over the years, my swing hasn’t changed a whole lot, my short game hasn’t gotten a whole lot better, but my mental game has significantly gotten better. That’s the one thing that I can credit with my success is my improved mental game,” Schenfeld said.
While her golf game has evolved and vaulted her into the category as one of the elite golfers in Division III, Schenfeld has also shined in the classroom throughout her four years at Gustavus. A health fitness and business management double major, Schenfeld has maintained a 3.75 grade point average.
“Katie is very self-motivated, driven, and has consistently been an excellent student. I have never questioned her ability to handle material or to produce high quality work,” Assistant Health and Exercise Science Professor Stephanie Otto said. “She has certainly set the bar high for other health and exercise science students.”
Yet, Schenfeld’s ability to handle her course work has undoubtedly been difficult at times with the frequent traveling for golf invites, requiring her to miss classes and make-up tests. “Being on the road so much makes it really difficult to keep up with class work because golf is an all day event,” Schenfeld said. “It leaves very little time on the weekend to do any school work, so I try to bring as little as possible with me on the weekend in order to focus on the competition and cram all of my homework in during the week.”
Still, Schenfeld has been able to balance her athletics and academics and excel in both through her commitment and dedication to both areas of her life. “Katie is a wonderful example of someone who has tremendous talent and tremendous humility at the same time,” Otto said. “She is one of those individuals I could see setting her mind to just about anything and finding success.”
She has indeed found a great deal of success on the golf course, especially over her past two seasons. With a stroke average of 78.2, Schenfeld has placed first in nine events in the past two years and finished in the top five in eight out of ten events this season, placing sixth in the other two invites.
“She has clearly been one of the most dominant players in Division III over the past two years, while also winning a couple of Division II events,” Moe said. “It was no surprise to me that Katie finished fifth [in the NCAA Championships] last year. She was standing on the 18th tee with a chance to claim medalist honors, caught a shift in the wind and missed clearing the water by about six inches.”
While Schenfeld references the NCAA Championships as one of her most memorable experiences golfing for Gustavus, it remains a bittersweet memory since she was extremely close to medaling and a chance to win the national tournament as a junior. Nevertheless, it has driven her to work even harder this season.
“After the success of my season last year, and especially after last year’s National Tournament, I have thought about nothing else but winning nationals this year. I think about it constantly and to achieve that goal would be absolutely amazing,” Schenfeld said. “Every practice and every tournament has been in preparation for the NCAA Championships, not only for myself but for the team as a whole. I am very excited to go down to Florida because I feel ready to compete at that level. I have the support of my team and coaches, and it should be a really fun tournament.”
The team aspect of golf makes it unique in college athletics as golf is an individual sport but scored as team. “I like that golf is an individual and a team sport. It really challenges you to stay in it mentally,” Schenfeld explained. “Obviously, golf isn’t a very physically demanding sport, but having to engage in competition for over five hours is a different kind of challenge. If I’m not having a particularly good round, my team can pick me up, which is reassuring.”
Her teammates have picked her up and backed her up both on and off the course, headlined by last year’s second place finish at the NCAA Championships, third place national ranking in all-scholar team grade point average (3.714), while also developing strong chemistry and friendships within the team. “My overall experience as a student-athlete has been really fun. I’ve never found a place that I feel more at home,” Schenfeld said. “The girls on the golf team are my best friends on campus, and it creates a great team camaraderie. I couldn’t have asked for a better experience at Gustavus.”
Schenfeld has enjoyed a great deal of success on the golf course, but she has proven herself to be the epitome of Gustavus student-athletes—achieving excellence in athletics and academics. She has been able to reach her potential with the help of her teammates, coaches and professors. She will hope to fully grasp that potential by winning the NCAA Championship Individual Title on May 10-13 at Howey in the Hills, Fla. and put the finishing touches on a tremendous four-year career at Gustavus.