Kent Roosevelt High School did not have a girls golf team in the fall of 2010.
At that time, girls who golfed in Kent played with the Rough Riders boys team.
That all changed in the fall of 2011 when twin sisters Kelly and Kasey Nielsen arrived at the high school as freshmen.
Two years later, the juniors along with their sister Kory Nielsen, a freshman, have Roosevelt primed to make a run to the Division I state tournament in October in Columbus.
Sophomores Coreena Wise, Jocelyn Kohl and Julia Sincel and freshman Chloe Wise join the Nielsens to give Roosevelt a formidable team under the direction of coach Bryan Harvey.
“It is a coach’s dream to have these girls,” Harvey said. “Not only are they incredible golfers and talented, they are also hard-working individuals and they are great people. They have a great sense of humor and are very compassionate. They are very caring about each other.
“You can see that out on the course, and they are also very competitive. As a coach, you can’t ask for more. I am also impressed with the leadership of the two older ones [Kelly and Kasey]. They want this goal of making it to state more than I do, which is hard to imagine. I think as a program we need to make it there.”
Kelly has made two individual appearances at the state tournament, and Kasey qualified once. The 16-year-old twins want to have company this year with their 14-year-old sister and other teammates at their sides.
“Our obvious goal is to get to state and try to do something there, but along the way we have fun and enjoy each other’s company and try not to get too angry with each other because we are all competitive,” Kasey Nielsen said.
Kasey is averaging 36 shots per nine holes and 74.6 shots per 18 holes. Kelly (36.6 and 76.6) and Kory (38.4 and 78.3) are not far behind with their scoring averages.
“I like playing with my sisters because we all help each other up,” Kelly said. “Getting Kory’s score is huge for us, and so are the scores from the other girls on our team. It is a team sport and we want to make it to state as a team.
“We push each other a lot to play better. We always want to beat each other every time we go out. There is never a dull moment. We are very competitive.”
Nielsens’ path to Kent
The Nielsen sisters are attending Roosevelt because their father, Joel Nielsen, is the director of athletics at Kent State University.
Kelly, Kasey and Kory were born to Joel and Sharon Nielsen in Winston-Salem, N.C. They have also lived in Colorado Springs, Colo., and in Vermillion, S.D. because of their father’s jobs at Wake Forest, Colorado College and South Dakota.
Kelly and Kasey competed on the Vermillion High School golf team in South Dakota as seventh-graders and helped that school win a team title in Division II. They moved to Kent in 2010 and attended Stanton Middle School in eighth grade.
“I think it helps us in the fact that we know what is out there,” said Kelly, who is older than Kasey by one minute. “We know there are a ton of girls like us working towards the same goal, to be college athletes. We see how hard we have to work to achieve our goal.”
Sharon played golf at Northern Illinois. Joel played football and baseball at Minnesota State University, Mankato, before playing one year in the NFL.
“We have two uncles [Jim Humphrey and Mike Humphrey] who are golf pros,” Kasey said. “We are a golfing family. My grandpa [Bill Humphrey] and grandma [Kate Humphrey] own a golf course in Kokomo, Indiana, and love the game.”
Sharon also has a sister and two cousins that played Division I college golf.
Kelly, Kasey and Kory are 4.0 grade-point average students who take advanced classes, and they also play basketball at Roosevelt.
“There is always a lot of competition in our family,” Kory said. “We always try to beat each other, but it is pretty fun. They might beat me one day and then I might beat them another day. It is pretty fun to see how we go back and forth and see who shoots better.”
Kelly, Kasey and Kory Nielsen have asserted themselves as the leaders on Roosevelt’s team. They each drive the ball well off the tee and are quality putters. Harvey describes Kory as “aggressive” and “goes after every pin,” Kasey as “very consistent” and “hits a lot of greens,” and Kelly as “a fighter who battles on every shot.”
“It would be awesome to make it to state,” Kelly said. “It would be a like a weight lifted off our shoulders to know that we finally accomplished the goal of making it to state as a team. It has been our program goal ever since we started. Kasey and I have proven we can make it as individuals. Now, we all want more as a team.
“One thing I have learned though is golf is just a game. It should not be taken to any other extreme because No. 1 is always family, No. 2 is school and No. 3 is golf.”
Harvey, a graduate of Roosevelt (1988) and KSU (1992 bachelor’s and 1995 master’s), is an intervention specialist at the high school and makes sure his golfers stay grounded.
“Coach has really helped us as a team to play our best and keep us calm when we get mad,” Kasey said. “He really helps us keep our emotions in check.”
Roosevelt entered today with a 12-0 record as a member of the Northeast Ohio Independent Girls Golf League after compiling a combined record of 25-3 in the two previous seasons.
While their win-loss record is impressive, their focus is on the three postseason tournaments — sectional, district and state.
“To be a part of this team is really cool,” said Coreena Wise, 15. “We are setting a high standard for all the upcoming young golfers that go to Kent. They will have a legacy to live up to with all of us.”
Michael Beaven can be reached at 330-996-3829 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the high school blog at http://www.ohio.com/preps. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/MBeavenABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.