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Senior stories: Family the driving force for MSU golfer Kira Dereniwsky

Sean Arbaut/MSU athletics Minot State golfer Kira Dereniwsky watches the flight of her ball after teeing off.

Unsure of what she wanted to do, Kira Dereniwsky needed a push to get moving in the right direction. Everything finally started to fall into place once her older sister Julia Dereniwsky accepted a scholarship to play collegiate golf at Texas A&M-Corpus Christi.

“My sister kind of set the way,” Kira Dereniwsky said. “And that’s when my dad kicked my butt into gear and was like I should probably focus on getting in somewhere too.”

A trip to Las Vegas did the trick. Dereniwsky showed off her skills on the links at a notable combine for high school athletes who hadn’t signed a National Letter of Intent yet.

One of the many coaches from across the country in attendance to view the showcase and attend the coaches’ convention was former Minot State golf coach Randy Westby.

“A friend of mine was down there with me, and his mom got in contact with Randy Westby,” Dereniwsky said. “She kind of pushed him toward me and my dad. I got in contact with him, and we started talking. A couple of months later, we went down for a visit.”

Following in her sister’s footsteps, Dereniwsky had found her way onto a women’s college golf team. The fact she had never even heard of Minot before deciding to visit didn’t make much of a difference.

“I didn’t know what to expect when I got here,” she said. “I wanted a university that was big enough that I could meet a bunch of people, but small enough that I could actually interact and get to know everyone. So, this was a perfect size for me coming from a small town.”

Life in the Rockies

Dereniwsky and her sister grew up in Kimberley, British Columbia, which is roughly four and a half hours southwest of Calgary and an hour and a half north of the United States border in Idaho.

Despite being a small town, Kimberley has its fair share of golf courses.

“We got like seven golf courses within a 15-minute drive from my front door,” Dereniwsky said. “They are some of the most beautiful courses you can play by being in the Rockies.”

While enjoying the scenery, Dereniwsky started developing her skills from a young age. Her father, Kevin Dereniwsky, always had his two daughters roaming the course with him as soon as they could walk. They would ride around in the golf cart and swing away with their mini plastic clubs.

As they got older, having a variety of courses nearby aided development.

“It showed me that some places aren’t going to be as easy as others,” Dereniwsky said. “I learned how to play out certain shots and how each course plays differently and keep myself out of trouble. It was an advantage for later because playing in college and playing all those different courses can be tricky. But it’s a little easier if you are smart about it.”

Dereniwsky was a standout golfer at Selkirk Secondary School and helped her school to a Provincial Championship before departing for Minot State in 2016.

Making a movement in Minot

As a true freshman, Dereniwsky played all 20 rounds for the Beavers and averaged 87.9 strokes per round.

As a sophomore, she played all 17 rounds and dropped her average to 84.5 strokes. She also cracked the top 10 for the first time with a sixth-place finish at Tracy Lane Memorial after posting rounds of 79-80.

Her junior season took a dip with an 88.7 stroke average over 14 rounds.

“It happens to a lot of people when you put too much pressure on yourself when you go into a tournament, and I think that was what kept Kira back a little bit,” MSU head coach Kyle Knutson said. “It was the pressure that she put on herself. So, we tried to get her to embrace that mentality of being carefree.”

Dereniwsky already embodied that “free spirit” persona off the golf course, like changing her hair color without much hesitation.

“One day it would be platinum blonde, and the next day she would have blue hair,” Knutson said. “You never knew what to expect, so she was quite the individual in that way.”

MSU assistant golf coach Eli Mihalick helped bring those laid-back characteristics to light on the golf course.

“(Mihalick) plays a lot of practice rounds with them,” Knutson said. “I think Kira benefited the most from Eli (Mihalick). He was able to convey to her to not put that pressure on herself. And I think that’s part of the reason why she had a breakthrough in her final round.”

Dereniwsky’s senior season was cut short to 12 rounds due to the COVID-19 pandemic. She averaged 85.9 strokes per round but notched two top 10s and shot her college-best of 76 in the final round she played.

That score helped the Beavers shoot a program-best 299 to win the Winona State Warrior Vegas Invite before the rest of the season was canceled a few days later.

“It’s too bad our season ended because you could see that confidence,” Knutson said. “It would have been nice to see that confidence continue to grow and what she would have been able to accomplish at the end of the season.”

Even though Dereniwsky and the Beavers didn’t get to complete the season on their terms, they still changed the perception of the program.

“When the team started in the NSIC, we were the bottom of the barrel, and no one looked at us,” Dereniwsky said. “We had a big group of girls come in all together, and we started to show that Minot State could be a team to play with. We improved every year, and I think this year would have been the one that opposing teams were a little bit scared to see us on the list to compete against.”

Justifiable conclusion

Dereniwsky is currently back in her hometown of Kimberley, pondering her next move. She has finished her golf career with the Beavers after graduating from MSU with a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice.

“My mom is a social worker and put my mindset in the direction,” Dereniwsky said. “We always used to watch all the crime TV shows. So, that kind of put in the thought of what I wanted to do. I always wanted to do forensic and detective work.”

After taking classes at Minot State, Dereniwsky pivoted to pursuing a career as a juvenile correctional officer.

She is hoping to move in and reunite with her sister in Saskatchewan. But jobs in the area are hard to come by, as unemployment numbers continue to rise to extreme heights because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In the meantime, Dereniwsky is spending her free time golfing at home with her family — waiting patiently for that next nudge to propel her forward.

Alex Eisen covers Minot State athletics, the Minot Minotauros and high school sports. Follow him on Twitter @AEisen13.

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