Feature photo by Paul Flessland
Competition photos by Dennis Hubbard, Bob Nelson
In only her second season at NDSU, Natalie Roth is emerging as a star for the women’s golf team. Her successful freshman campaign has only pushed this Detroit Lakes, Minnestoa, native to make sure she leaves her mark as a Bison.
Growing pains aren’t anything new for student-athletes transitioning from the high school golf course to the collegiate fairways. But in sophomore Natalie Roth’s case, her first year was what she expected – a success.
The 2015 Summit League Newcomer of the Year shot the lowest score per round on the team and finished fourth place in the Summit League Women’s Golf Championship, earning second-team All-Summit League honors. Roth’s 76.71 scoring average her freshman year is the best from a freshman at North Dakota State since Amy Anderson in 2010.
“You don’t quite know what’s going to happen with freshmen,” seventh-year head coach Matt Johnson said. “It usually takes awhile to settle in and she had to adjust a little bit early on, but yeah, I was certainly happy. She probably accomplished a little more than what I expected as a freshman.”
Inside the inflated walls of the Dacotah Field Bubble, Roth would rather talk about the accomplishments she has yet to reach. She said her scoring average was great last year and she would like to lower it to the 72 range this season, but like all great college competitors, she’s more worried about winning and doing what she can to help the team.
Roth won the 2015 NDSU Fall Kickoff this September and cracked the top five at the South Dakota Coyote Classic.
“I think I’m a huge competitor and I want to win. I mean, I go out there to win every time,” Roth said in between strokes with her irons on the mats inside the Bubble. “I might not win every time, but my goal is to win, and so I really would like to see a couple more collegiate wins.”
While attending Detroit Lakes High School, Roth learned a thing or two about winning. The Lakers won three straight state and conference championships through Roth’s sophomore and senior seasons. She also took home the individual state championship her junior year by shooting a 70.
Johnson said Roth’s competitive drive is what stood out to him when he was recruiting her and he knew he had to get her to NDSU.
“We knew about the program in Detroit Lakes, which has been very successful for a long time,” Johnson said. “So we knew that they knew how to win and they liked to win. I knew she was competitive.”
What has brought her back to Fargo is what originally helped her in a new environment when she moved to Lake Park, Minn., before seventh grade.
Roth was born in Fargo and lived there most of her life with her parents, Jason and Stacey, who work in Moorhead.
The Roths moved to Lake Park into a home on Big Cormorant Lake when Natalie was in seventh grade. The move wasn’t as simple as a quick summer weekend getaway. To acclimate to the new environment, school and classmates, Roth got herself involved in sports as soon as possible.
Roth played soccer and was a team captain for Detroit Lakes by her senior season. She also took up competitive golf for the first time.
Her grandparents lived off a golf course and she would frequently shoot nine holes with her grandpa. Roth says they’re the ones who pushed her and motivated her to pursue the sport in high school and in college.
“It was a lot of fun,” Roth said about playing for the Lakers golf team. “I got to travel with my best friends and get to come here with one of my best friends, Trisa Hutchinson.”
Roth’s high school teammate, Hutchinson, committed to NDSU at the same time as Roth.
“Trisa and I didn’t necessarily like talking about it because there was that competitiveness between us, but that’s what kept us going,” Roth said. “My high school coach, Cali (Harrier), said, ‘Are you okay with going to the same school as Trisa?’ and at that point, I was just like, ‘I would love it.’ Going into something with a great friend, and knowing we both push each other the same way, so it turned out really good.”
After winning the state title her junior season, Roth was a highly-sought after high school recruit by a handful of other schools. Johnson said it may have helped that he formed a relationship with her back when he gave her golfing lessons in Fargo’s Sports Bubble when Roth was in middle school.
“I had known her when she was young and we started communicating pretty early on,” Johnson said. “There wasn’t anything special at that point about her game that could set her apart from other recruits other than the fact I knew she was competitive and they (Detroit Lakes) had a history of winning.”
Ultimately, being close to her family made Roth’s decision to come to NDSU a no-brainer. After all, she’s a self-proclaimed “homebody.”
Back in the Dacotah Bubble, Roth is prepping for the second half of her sophomore season. Roth was able to drop her scoring average by one stroke this fall and went out on a high note in October when she hit a hole-in-one in her final round at the Rainbow Wahine Invitational in Hawaii.
Johnson said Roth’s game is well rounded for a student-athlete in her second season. He noted her putting game is a facet that she needs to continue improving on to reach her full potential.
To help with every golfer’s putting, NDSU Athletics has built a new addition to the Bubble that will be strictly used for putting. Johnson said it won’t have all the bells and whistles of a big-time program’s facility, but it will accomplish the same short-game objective.
Roth’s potential is within reach this season. Johnson said she’s the only player on the team that will inquire about the other teams and players at upcoming tournaments.
After finishing second in the Summit League in 2014 and fourth last year, Roth is excited about her and her teammate’s opportunity to capture the program’s second League championship.
And with the drive and fire of Roth leading the way, a high finish within the conference is only a few putts away for the Bison.