Consider Barrington graduate Heather Ciskowski ready for college golf.
Ciskowski, a regular on the American Junior Golf Association circuit since her sophomore year, placed first in the Midwest Junior Players Championship July 14-17 at Mistwood Golf Club in Romeoville. The victory was especially significant for Ciskowski because it came in her final AJGA tournament.
She began the final round just one stroke behind the leaders (although there was a six-way tie for first). She birdied the first two holes and never looked back. She finished with a 1-under par 71 and a three-round total of 9 over.
“That was a neat way to finish my junior career,” she said. “My mom started crying and it was just a really special moment. I didn’t know where I stood throughout the entire round, and I think that made me focus and play better.”
With her junior career complete, Ciskowski is focused now on final preparations to join the Minnesota women’s golf team. The catalyst for this upcoming chapter began at the end of her freshman season when she stopped playing her best sport — tennis.
Ciskowski qualified for the state tennis tournament in doubles and was on track to become an elite player for the Fillies. But the summer before her sophomore year, she realized she was more interested in golf — a sport she had always dabbled in — than refining the intricacies of her tennis game.
This was not a case of burnout. It was a realization that golf was the sport on which she wanted to focus her full attention.
“I had this itch to try golf and I put all of my focus and determination into it,” she said. “I’ve always been athletic so that helped but that only gets you so far. There was a transition period where I had to work really hard to catch up with [the kids] who had been playing since age 5.”
She began working with Doug Bauman, the head pro at Biltmore Country Club in North Barrington, and he was impressed with her natural aptitude for the game and her grit and determination to improve.
“You could see the ability she had right away,” Bauman said. “She’s a very confident and competitive athlete. She became a proficient ball-striker almost immediately, and then we just had to work on her fundamentals and short game. She worked at it diligently. She loves the game and practices as hard as anyone I’ve ever coached. She has a really high ceiling.”
At Minnesota, Ciskowski will play for Michele Redman, a nearly 20-year veteran of the LPGA Tour.
“Coach Redman is fantastic and can help me play to my full potential,” Ciskowski said. “I like the Big Ten atmosphere and have always wanted to play at a Big Ten school since I was little. Minnesota happened to be the one I was destined to go to.”