College Golf: Israelson lands DI spot with the Herd

Andrew Israelson Who: Staples-Motley High School senior What: Signed letter of intent to play golf at North Dakota State University Highlight: Class 2A co-state champion his sophomore season; tied for fourth last year Andrew Israelson was looking...

Andrew Israelson

Andrew Israelson

Who: Staples-Motley High School senior

What: Signed letter of intent to play golf at North Dakota State University

Highlight: Class 2A co-state champion his sophomore season; tied for fourth last year

Andrew Israelson was looking for five things and got four and a half.


The Staples-Motley Cardinals senior signed a Division I letter of intent Wednesday to play golf next fall for the North Dakota State University Bison.

Israelson, the son of Bill and Sarah Israelson of Staples, said there were five colleges on his radar, including the University of Minnesota, but said NDSU was the right fit for what he was looking for.

I had five criteria that I wanted to meet," Israelson said Thursday. "I wanted to go play Division I golf obviously, but my No. 1 thing was would I play right away? When I was speaking with the (NDSU) coach, he expects me to play right away. No. 2 was do I like the school? No. 3 was the coach. Do I like the coach? Would I like to be around him all the time? No. 4 was do I have good chemistry with the other players and would I become friends with them? And No. 5 was the weather. That was up there, but I moved it to five for now.

"NDSU met four and a half out of five for me. The minus half was for the weather. Obviously it's not the best place to be in January or February. Everything else was great."

NDSU head coach Steve Kennedy is feeling great.

"He's going to be refreshing and a lot of fun to coach," said Kennedy. "I started watching Andrew and looking at his scores about three years ago when I first got this job. I really didn't think that it was going to happen that he would come to NDSU. Then we started talking the last couple of months a little bit more. He was at the Bobcat tournament at the Fargo Country Club and we started visiting and he came on campus for a visit and we just kind of hit it off. It just kind of happened in the last couple of months."

Last spring, Israelson tied for fourth with a two-day 146. His sophomore season, he shot a two-day 144 to finish in a three-way tie for medalist honors. He battled back from a three-shot deficit after the first round to land in the top spot.

Israelson's freshman season saw him tie for fourth with a rain shortened 36-hole 109. More importantly, he helped the Cardinals win the Class 2A state team title.


S-M placed third in 2012 with Israelson posting a 16th-place 152 as an eighth-grader.

One of the key reasons Israelson decided to go west was he didn't want to retool his swing or his unique approach to golf.

"Coach Kennedy was one of the only coaches I felt respected me both as a person and in my golf game," said Israelson. "He wasn't looking for a kid that was mechanical or had a swing coach. He was looking for a kid who was ready to play and wanted to play and knew what it took to play. That's what I thought was a perfect fit for me.

"I was really excited when he offered me what he did. I told him that I would give him an answer before Thanksgiving. I met with another couple of colleges I was looking at where things didn't go as well so I signed as soon as I could."

Israelson took a visit to Grand Canyon University in Arizona and said it wasn't the fit he hoped it would be.

This past summer, Israelson and his sister Sarah, who plays for Augustana, finished second in the MGA Mixed Team championship. He helped the Bemidji MGA junior team to the state tournament the last two years and was a member of the Minnesota/Wisconsin Cup this year. He played the Pine to Palm in Detroit Lakes and the Birchmont in Bemidji and plans to play the Resorters next summer in Alexandria.

The name recognition Israelson provides will be a boost to NDSU's program, which Kennedy said is in a rebuilding mode with just one senior on the roster.

"I've talked to a couple of other kids and they all said, 'Well, Andrew signed with you. That's good,'" said Kennedy. "I think just the name recognition will help us. Everybody knows who Andrew is. Everyone has heard the Israelson name. We're just really excited to have him on campus and in our golf program."


Israelson said he needs to learn to play smarter and with better course management. That will be his focus come the spring high school season. His list of goals are many, including winning the section and state tournament. He has the confidence in his game to do that. That's one reason he doesn't want to overhaul his game at the next level.

"Speaking with coach Kennedy he expressed that he's not going to be the guy who is over my shoulder all the time telling me I need to have the perfect swing," said Israelson. "He wants his players to come in with what they've got and then just progress from there. He doesn't want to change their swing overall, which happens a lot at the Division I level.

"I'm a player, who is an old-time player. I don't have the 21st Century golf swing or the attitude even. I don't get as frustrated as some people do and I think that's a very big advantage for me. The fact that I can overcome obstacles on the course even when I'm having difficulties with my swing speaks a lot about me as a golfer and as a person. I can fix things and work with things even if they are a little wrong."

Israelson's ability to battle back from anything and his creativity have Kennedy excited to watch him for the next four seasons.

"He's the type of kid I love to watch on the golf course," said Kennedy. "He gets to the ball. He hits his shot. He doesn't sit over the ball for a very long time. He's a great ball striker. He's not afraid of any challenge we have for him. It's going to be a fun four years."

JEREMY MILLSOP may be reached at 218-855-5856 or . Follow on Twitter at .

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