Downie to golf at Winona State
By Erik Buchinger
A few years after playing golf for the first time, Hortonville’s Bree Downie signed her National Letter of Intent to play at Winona State University in Minnesota at the high school library on Friday, Nov. 10.
Downie said officially signing to play college golf was a big moment for her, as her dream had come true.
“It went so quick, but in that moment when [Athletic Director Andy Kolosso] was introducing me and my accomplishment, it finally felt real that I was about to start the next step in my life,” Downie said. “I probably had the biggest and dumbest looking smile on my face, but I don’t care. I was just so happy my dream of playing college golf was coming true, and I couldn’t have been happier having my favorite people there to support me.”
Downie had never played golf until her freshman year of high school when her dad Brian got her fitted for a set of clubs for her confirmation gift.
Brian also signed up Downie for golf lessons with Mark Hagenbach.
“[Hagenbach] helped me so much coming along,” Downie said. “He’s helped me a lot with my mental game as well. That’s a huge part of golf.”
After two years of playing high school golf, Downie started to receive attention from college programs.
“We didn’t really start talking about it until after my sophomore year,” Downie said. “[My dad] got me enrolled in this national recruiting program online, and that really opened up my opportunities to talk to more college coaches and find colleges I had never heard of before. That’s when we got really serious about it.”
Downie said her dad helped her throughout the recruiting process.
“He came with me on all the tours, and he was very involved on the website,” Downie said. “He would help me draft emails to coaches and with responding to coaches, helping me for when I was to actually meet the coach, how introduce myself, all of that stuff. He was a huge factor, and I’m so grateful for it because I had no idea what to do. No clue.”
In her junior season, Downie’s success on the golf course qualified her for the WIAA Division 1 State Championship where she finished in a tie for 36th place.
“That was a big accomplishment for me because sophomore year I came so close,” Downie said. “I got a lot of recognition here, and that felt really nice because I think girls’ golf is one of the least known about sports at this school, so that was cool.”
Downie said she struggled over the summer as she was trying to narrow down her college choice.
“My senior tournament season over the summer hadn’t really gone too well,” Downie said. “I was under a lot of stress, and I actually picked Winona and committed before my high school season, so that relieved a lot of stress and allowed me to have more fun with it. I think that helped a lot.”
In addition to Winona State, Downie’s college options included Lindenwood University where her cousin Alexandra Wheeler is finishing out her senior season as well as Southwest Minnesota State. Winona State was the last school she toured, which happened in early August.
“I loved the area over there,” Downie said. “It’s very beautiful, and it’s right on the bluffs of the Mississippi.”
Winona State’s players and head golf coach guided Downie on the tour of the school.
“It was really cool to see how the coach interacts with the players and see their attitudes toward each other,” Downie said. “It just felt like home. They acted like a family, and I really like that.”
Downie said that night she knew Winona State was the school she was interested in, so she called the coach that night and committed to the school.
Downie finished out her senior season this fall, which she said was her favorite year of high school golf.
“I enjoyed it a lot, and I absolutely loved the team this year,” Downie said. “Always super positive, always fun to be around. It’s probably been my favorite year so far team-wise. Individually, I also felt it went very well.”
Downie fell a few strokes short of reaching her second appearance at state in her senior year.
“I was a little sad that it ended at sectionals, but the conditions were pretty rough and everyone had a pretty rough day, but oh well,” Downie said. “I wouldn’t change any of it.”
Downie said she learned a lot in her four years of golf and hopes to continue to improve in college.
“It was huge that I had gotten to the level of so many other girls who had been playing since they could walk,” Downie said. “Not having as many years of experience was difficult for a while, but I’ve learned to just embrace it because I still have so much to learn that I know that I will improve, and I’m thinking that college will really help with that.”
Downie said when she started playing golf as a freshman in high school, she did not think competing at state or signing a partial scholarship to a Division 2 college would be in her future.
“In my freshman year, I had never anticipated going to state or going to play college golf,” Downie said. “It never crossed my mind, but now that I think about it, playing for three years and going to state, it’s kind of hard to think, ‘Wow.’ I just took it one year at a time.”