Andrew Israelson has a rare perspective on the game of golf.
“I kind of just go out and hit the ball,” he said.
It’s a simplistic approach for a player who is ranked seventh in the state and just led his team to a fourth straight Class 2A state boys golf tournament.
The Staples-Motley Cardinals sophomore won the Section 6-2A individual title by shooting 76 during round one and a 71 in the final round. His 147 helped the Cardinals to 319-309 — 628 or a 25-stroke win over St. Cloud Cathedral.
“Half our team was playing pretty good,” said Israelson. “Our third and fourth guys were kind of struggling coming in. I figured one of them would step up and Kyle Quast had some excellent scores and I think he helped the team the most.
“I thought I needed to shoot under par at least one of the days. The second day I could have shot 75 because Kyle and Dakota (Waverek) were both playing really well.”
In fact, for most of the season, Israelson’s top competition has come from Waverek.
While Israelson won the section title, the two-day Grand Rapids Invite and tied for medalist at the Cardinal Invite at the Legacy, Waverek swept the Mid-Minn Conference meets with Israelson only able to tie for medalist honors once. Waverek also won the Mid-State Conference.
“It was nice having that competition because if I was going to play good at a course I knew he was going to play good, too,” said Israelson. “We would have those top two positions for the team consistently every time. It was nice at practice, too, because we played together all the time. It was kind of a head-to-head match every day.”
Israelson has the ability to shoot below par and the ability to keep a bad round from getting really bad. But then a bad round for the four-year varsity player is still pretty good.
“I think he’s the type of player that when he steps up to the tee box he thinks he’s going to shoot under par,” said Cardinals head coach Glen Hasselberg. “That’s his expectations. He of course has had those type of rounds. His game is very solid. That confidence he has is just — you’ll see him on the course and he may have a shaky start and he’ll tell you ‘don’t worry. I have some birdie holes up in front of me.’ He’s thinking that all time.“
Israelson also has the unique ability to bail himself out from any sort of trouble. It’s an ability he learned from watching his father, Bill Israelson.
“Most people would say I got that from my dad,” Israelson said. “It’s probably in the genes. I learned most of it by just watching him play golf and being his caddy whenever he needs me to be. It’s nice to see those shots. I pick up on those.”
Last season, Israelson won the Section 6-2A title and tied for fourth in the Class 2A state tournament to help the Cardinals to the state title. It was his goal to get his team back to state.
With that goal realized, he’s got his sights set on another top five finish.
“I’ve been hitting the ball a lot better this year with both my irons and my driver,” said Israelson. “But ever since I was in eighth grade, when I shot that 67 or 68 at the section meet the second day, I’ve had confidence in myself that I could shoot low.
“It’s also helped because our team had so many good players that most of the time it didn’t matter what I shot. That took pressure off of me to just go play. That’s really helped me as a player. My teammates could back me up so I could go and try and shoot low.
“It’s a little different this year, but I still have confidence in myself to play well.”
Other notable performances:
Baseball: Triston Rubner, Pine River-Backus, finished 2-3 with two RBIs and a home run against Menahga.
Cody Meyer, Pierz, struck out seven leading to a 2-1 victory over Foley. He added a double and a run.
Kyle Boser, Little Falls, struck out 13 and walked zero in a two-hit shutout of Foley.
Nathan Ehnstrom, Aitkin, went 3-3 with four RBIs and an inside-the-park home run against Rush City.
Nathan Athman, Pierz, finished 3-4 with two doubles and three RBIs against Sauk Centre.
Track and Field: Travis Jacobson, Pequot Lakes, won the shot put and discus in the Section 6-1A meet.