‘Unfinished business’: Gophers’ golfers Emma Carpenter, Grace Curran back for 5th season

Emma Carpenter and Grace Curran weren’t ready for their college experience to be over, and they didn’t want to be finished playing competitive, collegiate golf.

Thanks to having an extra year of eligibility with the COVID-19 pandemic shutting down their 2020 spring and fall seasons, they don’t have to. Two of the top players on the University of Minnesota women’s golf team announced late last week they’re returning for their fifth season in the fall of 2023.

Carpenter and Curran will be in a one-year Master’s program, and try to take the Gophers to new levels after coming up one spot short of the team qualifying for the NCAA Regionals this past spring. The two grew up about an hour apart in the Chicago area, knew each other well from junior golf and will have one more season together with the Gophers as best friends.

This past season featured a record-breaking 17-under par performance in one day at the Edie Odom Invitational in October, playing a tournament in the Bahamas, finishing ninth at the Big Ten Tournament and watching Isabella McCauley finished 77th at the NCAA Tournament as a freshman.

Carpenter averaged a 75.96 during the 2022-23 season, and has a career-low 69. Curran had the third-best scoring average on the team last season, and is third-best in school history with a 75.54 average.

Fox 9 Digital Sports Reporter Jeff Wald caught up with Carpenter and Curran to talk about their decision to come back for a fifth season, and what’s next for the seniors.


CURRAN: The game of golf has been a huge part of my life since I was 7. I was loving my time as a Gopher and I’m super proud to be a part of this team. I could not have asked for better teammates and coaches, and I truthfully was just not ready to give the game up yet. I know that whenever I’m done playing in college, I’m going to be finished with the sport competitively. I’m not choosing to pursue a career professionally in the sport, so I knew that I wanted one more year as a chance to compete with my best friends and have a great run.

CARPENTER: When that fall (2020) got canceled, I remembered thinking I have to take a fifth year because college golf is too great to miss out on this much of it. It worked out absolutely perfectly, I’m not ready to give up the game of golf and to be able to finish up and get some more valuable schooling is an awesome opportunity that really couldn’t be passed up.


CARPENTER: I remember on my visits they were showing me videos of the virtual tour of what the indoor facility was going to be like and it was going to be one of the best indoor facilities in the country, which it is. I’m used to having four seasons and doing a lot of individual work. No matter where you choose to go to school, you’ll still do a lot of travel whether you’re in a southern state or not. We both experienced it in junior golf, showing up to tournaments and showing that you can compete against kids that are practicing year-round outside is extremely rewarding.

CURRAN: A big part of my decision was the people and the relationships that this place was going to foster for me. I knew Kate Lilly and Jessica Lee, Illinois girls prior to when I committed. There was a good chance we would get a lot of Midwest girls, and I kind of just felt this culture of an inclusive space and respect for everyone. There was no drama, that was the biggest thing for me.


CURRAN: When I think of Coach Rhyll, I think of heart, passion and desire. She really just exemplifies all those traits on a daily basis. She just cares an absurd amount to the point where you feel overflowing love, kind and compassion from her at all times. I’ve never had a coach that cares so much about me as a person, regardless of the score I shoot on the golf course, I know I can pick up the phone whenever and call her, she’s always going to be there. She’s our biggest cheerleader.

CARPENTER: Immediately when Rhyll came in, she just made an impact on the culture and the environment. So many players struggle in their sport in college due to feeling so much pressure as part of being on a team, being on such a competitive and intense stage. Part of what Rhyll did right away is she said she wanted to be competitive, but she wanted to have fun. She always says happy people play good golf. It was really important for her to set that precedent. It was like a weight had been lifted off so many shoulders. She puts love, respect and gratitude above all else, that’s what really translates well.


CURRAN: I just played in the USGA U.S. Women’s Open Qualifier at Somerset Country Club. Emma was my caddie. Unfortunately it was not the result I wanted, not my best golf that day. But I have a summer full of other tournaments that I’m looking forward to. I’m playing in the Illinois State Amateur and a U.S. Amateur Qualifier.

CARPENTER: Two days after I caddied for her she made 7 birdies at TPC. Watch out this summer for the rest of her events. I play in a U.S. Women’s Open Qualifier next week in Illinois, and I’ll be playing a U.S. Women’s Amateur Qualifier a few weeks after that. I do not know a summer that isn’t stacked with competitive golf because when we get back in the fall, it’s pedal to the metal, full speed ahead with tournaments and you’ve got to have your A game right away. You definitely don’t want competitive golf to be a foreign feeling, we also love to do it anyway.


CURRAN: The future is bright. I think there’s still unfinished business. We’ve been with this program since 2019 and it has the potential to be one of the best seasons in Gopher women’s golf history. That in itself is so exciting.

CARPENTER: Part of the reason why I’m so excited to come back to the University of Minnesota to play on the golf team is just the trajectory of the program. The way I’ve seen it over my years here is that it’s one thing to be a part of a team that’s doing really well and know you were the team that changed the program, changed the future of the program, changed the entire program as a whole and what it’s going to look like for the rest of its days. That’s my biggest goal here, to look back and know I was part of a team that really made a difference for what the rest of the years are going to look like. This year’s team has a great chance of doing that.