High School Golf: Israelson will be center of attention at state tournament

With 14 combined state appearances between them, three of the area golfers participating in this year's state tournaments certainly know what to expect.

Staples-Motley Cardinal Andrew Israelson watches his drive Friday during the Pequot Lakes Invitational at the Legacy Courses at Cragun's. (Brainerd Dispatch/ Steve Kohls)
Staples-Motley Cardinal Andrew Israelson watches his drive Friday during the Pequot Lakes Invitational at the Legacy Courses at Cragun's. (Brainerd Dispatch/ Steve Kohls)

With 14 combined state appearances between them, three of the area golfers participating in this year's state tournaments certainly know what to expect.


State tournament

When: Tuesday & Wednesday

Where: Class 1A at Pebble Creek Golf Club, Becker; Class 2A at the Ridges at Sand Creek, Jordan; Class 3A at Bunker Hills Golf Course, Coon Rapids


• Brady Raph and Nate Brasel of Pine River-Backus and Brady Enneking of Pillager in Class 1A

• Andrew Israelson of Staples-Motley, Jordan Kern of Wadena-Deer Creek, Alex Stone & Amanda Nies of Pequot Lakes, Olivia Klefsaas and Hailey Koenig of Staples-Motley in Class 2A

• Gavin Metz of Brainerd in Class 3A state tournament


Staples-Motley senior Andrew Israelson is making his fifth appearance and senior Amanda Nies and junior Alex Stone from Pequot Lakes are making their fourth and fifth, respectively, trips to the Class 2A tournament at the Ridges of Sand Creek in Jordan Tuesday and Wednesday.

Of the three, Israelson will draw the most attention. He tied for the title as a sophomore in 2014, tied for fourth last year and won the inaugural Mr. Minnesota Golf Award that was presented Sunday night. He made his first state tournament appearance in 2012 as an eighth-grader on the third-place S-M team and tied for 16th individually. The Cardinals won the team title the following year with Israelson tying for fourth place in a tournament that had the second nine holes of the second day wiped out by rain.



"Without a doubt, he's one of the premier players in the state in regard to his performance and abilities," said Staples-Motley head coach Glen Hasselberg. "He'd like to be hitting on all cylinders going in, but even if he's not, he's a gamer and has a way of rising to the occasion.


"He's made his mark in high school golf regardless of how he places. A two-day tournament is not going to make or break what he's already accomplished.


Israelson's overall average for the season is 73.1 strokes. He has won 13 tournaments and tied for first in another. He will be teeing off 1:21 p.m. Tuesday in the second-to-last flight.


Joining Israelson in the Class 2A boys tournament is Wadena-Deer Creek senior Jordan Kern who is making his first state appearance and tees off at 1:03. Kern turned in a 81-78 two day total 159 in the Section 8-2A tournament to become the first WDC boy to advance to state since Michael Grieme in 2004.



Nies and Stone will be no strangers to the course in Jordan and the pressures of a state tournament.

Nies made her first tournament in 2011 as a seventh-grader with the Pequot team that finished fourth. She tied for 80th with a 229 and missed the 2012 tournament when the Patriots failed to go as a team.


Both girls were on Pequot Lakes teams that finished third in 2013, second in in 2014 and third last year.


Stone tied for 36th in 2013 as an eighth-grader, tied for 29th in 2014 and tied for eighth last year.

Nies finished tied for 49th as a ninth-grader, was 19th in 2014 and tied for 22nd last year.

Stone could challenge Detroit Lakes senior Kate Smith who is attempting to become Minnesota's first five-time individual champion.



"She's beaten Kate Smith twice this year and tied her once," said Pequot Lakes head coach Jon Dale. "She should have a shot if she's playing well and I'd be real surprised if she's not in the top five.

"Amanda has really come on at the end of the year. She has the potential to play in the 70s and physically I hope she can get through it. She had a hip injury and has an exemption to use a motorized cart which she has for the last four meets. The exemption carries through the state tournament and that's really going to help her. I'm proud of her for hanging in there.


"Their mental game is one of the strengths for both of them and hopefully both will make a good showing."


In the Section 8-2A tournament last Tuesday, Stone finished second behind Smith and Nies was seventh. Nies tees off at 8:42 a.m. and Stone goes off in the final flight at 9 a.m.



First-timers in the Class 2A girl's tournament will be seniors Olivia Klefsaas and Hailey Koenig from Staples-Motley.

Klefsaas tied for second in the Section 6-2A tournament with a 79-82 two-day 161 total and Koenig placed sixth with 88-92 and two-day total 180.


"This is new territory for both Olivia and Hailey," said Hasselberg. "The fact that they're getting there is certainly an accomplishment. We hope that they have a good experience and we're going to play and have fun and see where it stands."

Koenig tees off at 8:33 a.m. Tuesday and Klefsaas at 8:51 a.m.


Brainerd's Gavin Metz is making his first appearance in the Class 3A tournament at Bunker Hills in Coon Rapids.

"He's probably one of the best ball-strikers I've seen for a long time," said Brainerd head coach Brian Wallace. "His iron play is his strength. His shots to the green are very consistent right now and that's why he was able to score and qualify for the state tournament."



According to Wallace, Metz's average for the season is 78.75 but his scores in the last half of the season have been more around 75. He fired a 77-74 for a two day 151 total in the Section 8-3A tournament that placed him sixth.


"A real strength of his success is that he has been able to go about his way and not think too much about it," Wallace said. "He's been able to hit one shot at a time and that's a real asset in golf. He doesn't get too high or too low and that's really helped him.


"I think he'll do just fine. I really don't think he gets very nervous or get too excited about anything and just takes it one shot at a time." Metz tees off at 1:12 in the third-to-last flight.


Three other area boys will be playing for the first time in the Class 1A tournament at Pebble Creek Golf Club in Becker after qualifying from the Section 6-1A tournament.

Eighth-grader Brady Raph from Pine River-Backus shot rounds of 82-80 for a second-place 162 in the section and teammate Nate Brasel, a junior, shot 86-81 for a sixth-place167.


Pillager junior Brady Enneking made the trek by finishing eighth with a two-day total of 168.

Enneking tees off at 1:03 Tuesday, Brasel at 1:12 and Raph at 1:30 in the final flight.

Players were allotted a practice round Monday. Tee times for girls in each tournament start at 7:30 a.m. and the boys at noon. Wednesday's final-round tee times will be determined after Tuesday's first round is completed.

What To Read Next
Get Local