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College Golf: Israelson, Stone prolong golf seasons

It will be an exciting early May for Savannah Stone and Emily Israelson. The former lakes area golf standouts have continued their strong play at the college level as evidenced by last weekend's finishes at the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Confer...

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Left: Concordia University senior Savannah Stone (Pequot Lakes) takes a shot last weekend during the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference championship in Morton. Photo Credit to Greg Devereaux. Right: Augustana University junior Emily Israelson (Staples-Motley) competes during the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference Championship last weekend in Morton. Submitted photo.

It will be an exciting early May for Savannah Stone and Emily Israelson.

The former lakes area golf standouts have continued their strong play at the college level as evidenced by last weekend's finishes at the Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference championship Sunday.

Israelson, a junior, helped Augustana University win its eighth straight conference championship. She closed the tournament with an even-par 72 for a three-round 225 to place second individually. She trailed only teammate Kali Trautman by two strokes.

Augustana grabbed four of the top five individual spots.

"It was a pretty good tournament for our team overall because we've been a little bit slow this spring," said Israelson. "We haven't quite been playing to our potential. It was nice to go out there as a team and shoot a pretty low round. Every day we shot pretty good. I think that's the best we've played at conference so I think it will give us a little more confidence heading into regionals."

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The Augustana junior owns a 77.47 scoring average through the team's first 17 rounds. That's good for second on the team.

In nine events, she's secured three top five finishes and five top 10s. That includes second-place ties in back-to-back events. She shot a 157 at the Mustang Invite Sept. 24-25 and a 76 at the Super Region Three Fall Preview.

She was third the following week at the Bearcat Midwest Fall Classic with a two-day 150.

"The season has been going pretty well," Israelson said. "Last year, I played pretty well all season so I think I'm finally back at the level I should be shooting. My short game definitely has gotten a lot better. It's easier to be more consistent when you have your short game always there."

This spring she's landed a tie for sixth and a tie for eighth. Her tie for eighth came at the Central Region Spring Preview April 10-11 at Rivercut Golf Course in Springfield, Mo. During her second round, Israelson drained a hole-in-one.

"We have to get top three to make it to nationals and that's just the goal right now," said Israelson. "We do have home course advantage so that's nice. It's a course nearby and we've played it quite a few times.

"I just want to make sure to play like I have been playing the last couple of years and play to my ability and the score will take care of itself."

The NCAA Super Regional will be May 8-10 at Minnehaha Country Club in Sioux Falls, S.D.

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Stone, a Concordia University senior, will also be going to the Super Regional.

She was the lone non-Augustana player to finish in the top five at the conference meet.

The Pequot Lakes High School graduate shot 76-73-77 to tie for third with a 226 at Dacotah Ridge Golf Course in Morton.

It wasn't what she wanted but she was pleased with her overall play.

"I was excited to go back there one last time," said Stone. "The goal was to win the conference. My freshman year I got disqualified because of illegal clubs that I had in my bag. I had illegal wedges that I had no knowledge of so I got disqualified during the spring portion and I would have ended up winning if I didn't get disqualified.

"So it was always the goal to go back there and get the win that I never got."

One flaw to Stone's three conference rounds were the closing holes. During Round One, she doubled the 18th hole to finish with a 76. A par or better would have landed her in the lead.

In Round Two, Stone was 1-under going into the final two holes. She finished bogey, bogey for her 73, but still secured the lead heading into the final round.

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She remained in the lead until the 16th hole of the final round. There she finished with a triple bogey, par and bogey to conclude with a 77.

"I was pretty disappointed because I knew I would have had it even if I bogeyed the 16th hole," said Stone. "I had been playing really great golf. I mean, I still played really great. It's good to know that I'm playing that well going into the regional tournament in a couple of weeks."

Stone said the Super Regional course sets up well for her. It's a tighter layout similar to the courses she grew up playing in the Brainerd lakes area. She tied for fourth with a 6-over 77 Oct. 3 in the Super Region Three Fall Preview at Minnehaha Country Club.

"The goal is to make it to nationals," said Stone. "They take the top three teams and then the top three individuals who aren't on those teams. I was one stroke away from advancing last year, so I think this is the year I make it."

This is Stone's final season at Concordia. She said her college career has been memorable.

"I never knew how good of a golfer I could be until I came to college," she said. "You spend all your time working on golf and going from the fall with a break in the winter and then coming back in the spring. I think I've always peaked at the right time. Every year, I've kind of shown that if you keep working at it you can get it to where you want it to be.

"Over the past four years, I've perfected my game a little bit and gotten it to the point where I know if I'm having a problem I can fix it almost immediately."

There is one aspect of graduating that Stone is happy about. Next year, her younger sister Alex will be playing for Concordia rival Augustana.

"Oh man, that would be interesting. My parents wouldn't know who to cheer for," she said.

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