Israelson rallies for Pine to Palm title

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Andrew Israelson holds the Pine to Palm championship trophy at the conclusion of the awards ceremony at Detroit Country Club Sunday afternoon in Detroit Lakes. Robert Williams / Forum News Service

Andrew Israelson never led in the Pine to Palm championship match against North Dakota State University teammate Nate Adams until the final putt of the match.

It took Israelson 11 holes to record his first birdie and he trailed by as many as three holes into the back nine of play before rallying to capture the 87th championship at Detroit Country Club Sunday, Aug. 11.

"It's exciting after you win but being down is not fun," Israelson said.

Fellow Bison golfer and Detroit Lakes native Maddie Herzog was on Israelson's bag all week and did her best to change the vibe as the match looked like it could slip away.

"I got in a little bit of a slump with my attitude, but my caddy was really positive the whole time and actually kind of irritated me, at points, but I can thank her for helping out," said Israelson.


The victory was also a first in the 87 years of the tournament as Israelson joins his father and three-time champion Bill Israelson (1976-77, 1980) on the big championship board at the Detroit Country Club. The Israelsons are the first father-son duo to win at the Pine.

"I'm still trying to catch him but it means something," said Israelson. "Knowing that he's won this three times I've always wanted to get this one checked off the list. He's never been medalist so I've got him beat there. It's kind of one thing when your dad, or you've got a family member that's done a lot and has a great reputation, you kind of shoot to beat that. I've still got two more to go."

Israelson became the first golfer to sweep qualifying and the match play championship since the University of Minnesota's Jon Trasamar in 2013 and current PGA professional Tom Hoge in 2009.

For much of the match it looked like incoming Bison freshman Adams was going back to Fargo with the trophy and Israelson had everything to do with bringing Adams to NDSU.

"I'm excited for him to be our teammate; he's got a great game," said Israelson. "It's going to be nice having a deep squad."

The two met in a match play at the 2018 Resorters tournament in Alexandria when Adams was still in high school at Maple Grove. Adams beat Israelson in 19 holes and the Bison's team leader made quick work in getting the attention of head coach Steve Kennedy to recruit Adams to the team.

"Izzy called me and said, 'we need to take a look at this guy,' and I went and watched him," Kennedy said. "He's such a good ball striker. I'm really looking forward to what the next four years brings. He's like Izzy, a multi-sport athlete; they both played well in basketball and it shows that they're athletes first and really good golfers."

Adams took an early 2-up lead Sunday with a par on the opening hole and a birdie on No. 3. After giving a hole back with bogey on the fourth, he stretched the lead to 3-up with a par on six and a birdie on No. 7.


Israelson made an incredible out from the front lip of the dangerous bunker lurking in front of the seventh green but could not get up and down. Adams rolled a smooth putt into the cup and held the 3-up lead to the turn.

Israelson started to make his move on the 11th hole with a monster drive leaving an easy wedge to set up a tap-in birdie to get one hole back. He birdied three of the first six holes on the back nine getting within one at the 15th green.

Adams took the 18th tee box with a 1-up lead but did not like his shot from the tee finding trees right. It took him four strokes to reach the green and a strong effort just to bogey. Israelson had two putts to take the match to all-square and the 19th hole and did so.

The 19th and final hole was a scrambling exhibition put on by Adams.

His drive was left in trees. His approach was well right of the green behind a tree. His third, a runner up to the green, rolled over the surface and to the back fence leaving a half-swing at best. He choked down on the club past the grip and chipped to within a foot of the hole for one of the more miraculous up-and-downs and par fives in Pine to Palm history.

While Adams was pulling out a miracle to stay in the match, much like the 18th hole, Israelson simply needed a good lag, got one, and tapped in for his only lead of the match and the victory.

Both players showcased an incredible level of shot-making abilities. Israelson was huge off the tee. Adams was a magician around the greens, something Kennedy is looking forward to with the coming Bison season with the two stars of the Pine to Palm.

"I'm really excited about it," he said. "We've got seven guys that can play the game really well. I think they're going to battle each other and I'm really looking forward to the year."


That seven-pack includes Lucas Johnson, the first round qualifying leader at this year's tournament.

It will be Israelson leading that Bison charge this coming fall.

"Izzy has been there for three years now and he's our captain and the leader on the team," said Kennedy. "He sets everything by example. He's such a leader in the classroom and on the course. He does everything right."

That was not always the case on the front nine of the championship, but in crunch time it was Israelson who did everything right to come away with the Pine to Palm title.

Robert Williams has been a sports editor for Forum Communications in Perham and Detroit Lakes since 2011.
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