Area Golf: 3 area players headed to national event

Brainerd's Izzy Olson tracks on of her shots during a round May 19, at Cragun's Legacy Courses. Olson qualified for the National High School Invitational Aug 3-5 at Pinehurst Resort in North Carolina. Brainerd Dispatch / Steve Kohls

Ryan Sharpe called it a life-changing experience.

For Brainerd athletes Erik Stoxen and Izzy Olson and Pequot Lakes junior Tyler Seeling, the chance to play in the National High School Invitational at Pinehurst Resort in North Carolina will certainly be new.

“I got really excited when Ryan told me I made it,” Seeling said. “He sent the email over to me and it was awesome. I was pumped because I’ve never played in an out-of-state tournament besides Wisconsin. It’s a good opportunity for sure.”

Sharpe, who is a PGA teaching professional and lead instructor at Chris Foley Golf Schools in Brainerd, sent in resumes for the three athletes to participate in the event.

“Players typically qualify through the state tournament, but with this year not having a high school season due to COVID-19 they just opened it up and you had to send in a resume,” Sharpe said. “I sent in resumes for all three kids, but they’ve all played in a state high school tournament so they all had good status.”


Olson was on the putting green at Cragun’s Legacy Courses when she received a text from Sharpe.

“He told me to call him later that day and when I called he just told me I made it into the tournament,” Olson said. “I was like, ‘What? No way.’ I just felt there was no way I was going to make it. I figured it was a long shot, but I made it in and I’m super excited about it.”

The tournament will take place Aug. 3-5. Play will be conducted on three different courses.

One of the unique experiences of this tournament will be the courses themselves. Pinehurst resort is home to nine different courses, including No. 2 that hosted the 1999 and 2005 U.S. Open Championships.

Course No. 2 will not be used for the tournament; instead, players will compete on Nos. 6, 8 and 9.

“It was awesome to be invited to this,” Stoxen said. “It’s a lifetime experience for me and it’s going to be fun for my dad and me to go down together and spend that time together at one of the nicest golf resorts in the world.

“My dad and I are going to play No. 2 in a practice round.”

Stoxen and Seeling will both head down July 31, to get in two practice rounds. Olson and her mother are heading down Aug. 1.


Sharpe ordered all three players yardage books so they can get a better idea of what to expect.

“All I know really is the greens are what they call crowned so if you miss your shot by five yards they’ll either roll off the green or bounce a different direction,” Stoxen said. “It will be a lot harder to hit the shots you need to. Hopefully, my short game is on that week so I can try and make as many up-and-downs as I can. That’s really all I know about those courses right now.”

Said Olson: “I’m expecting the courses to be in great condition. The humidity and hotness will make the ball jump a lot further so I’ll have to get used to that playing my practice rounds.”

Seeling said his game has been good lately, with low scores sprinkled in among his rounds. He hopes to get his game more consistent as tournament time approaches.

“Ryan and I have been working on shaping the ball and really a lot of chipping and putting just get up and down from the tight places there,” Seeling said. “It’s going to be awesome just to have the experience and say you’ve been down there and qualified for a tournament down there.”

One concern for the three golfers is the lack of competitive golf. Because the spring golf season was canceled all three have been competing in as many Junior PGA Tour events, which just started last week, as they can. They did enjoy the Brainerd lakes area high school golf events that took place in May and Olson is even battling her older brother and his friends.

“They’re all so good and I just want to go out and do my best against them so that really brings out the competitiveness in me,” Olson said.

Stoxen said his approach will be to play free and with a clear mind. He hopes to shoot under 78 all three rounds, but admitted he’s worried about the heat and humidity.


Olson just hopes to stay positive.

“Ryan and I are trying to work on my positivity in golf,” Olson said. “I’m just going to go down there and try my best to be positive. We’re working on not being so negative if one shot goes bad. That shot is already done and over with. Golf is about your misses and Ryan and I are trying to work on just the positive mindset.”

Regardless of place or score, all three are just eager to soak up the experience and use it to become better players.

“I don’t know how many people from Minnesota got invited, but to be one of the very few to go down there; No. 1, it’s a huge confidence booster for me to say that I was able to attend this,” Stoxen said. “It’s just going to be unreal. Words can’t even describe how much motivation I’ll have.”

Covering the Brainerd lakes area sports scene for the past 23 years.
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