With years of experience at his disposal, local product Lucas Johnson
is savoring his time at North Dakota State.
As one of the few upperclassmen on this roster, how much accountability have you placed on yourself to be a leader?
I love having the young guys come in and there’s a lot of good talent here. I think the biggest thing is we go back to so many courses and being here for so many years, having that experience is vital. Knowing what types of challenges a course can present is very advantageous to me and the team. I’m not the type of person to be at the forefront of everything, but whenever guys need tips or something, I want to be that resource for them.
Can you describe the change in your attitude from a year ago? From not playing at all to getting to travel and compete once again.
Last year was tough because we were down in Phoenix playing our practice round and they called it off. It was crushing, I guess you’d say. Then to
have to try and find the motivation to keep practicing was a big hurdle. Golf
is a summer sport and that is kind of when all of our work gets done. Since we had months off, it was hard to motivate initially. Now, it’s just great to be playing again and I think it’s allowed me to have a little bit more fun with the game. I am not taking anything for granted which has made this season so much fun.
Can you speak to how challenging it was to motivate yourself over the summer? Especially with no guarantee of a season this year?
I would say it was easier than just starting a school season. You always want something to work towards and the tough part was fall season was so inconclusive. We just didn’t know if we were playing and in how many tournaments. So it was tough to stay motivated, but you’re playing golf, and luckily our sport just kind of naturally social distances. In a pandemic scenario, like we are in, golf is a very suitable game. We were very fortunate to be able to play in the fall whereas football, volleyball, hockey and others could not. That was part of it, too because we couldn’t take for granted our opportunity to compete. Not everyone got that in the fall.
Given what you just said, have you found yourself savoring this experience more?
I think it definitely kind of brought things into perspective. A lot of the time was spent alone with your thoughts and you really realize how special this is. I mean, we get to play golf and travel. There are so many people who would love to do that.
I’ll come back next year and play a fifth year, but the pandemic illustrated to me the value of time. Things are winding down and I’m not going to be able to have this opportunity for the rest of my life. To be able to take that opportunity and say I cherished it is important. I want to have some fun with it.
Where have you seen the biggest jumps in your game? Is it mental or physical?
You grow so much mentally in college, that’d be probably the easiest one, right? No matter what the sport is, I think anytime a high school athlete comes into the collegiate level, there’s a certain learning curve. That is where you really begin to take strides in the mental portion of golf. For me, I think that my patience has really grown. Everyone knows that golf can be a frustrating game and it is easy to post big numbers. Learning how to come back and take it one shot at a time is so important.
With that, I’ve definitely gotten stronger, too. I mean, I think I have put on close to 35 pounds in my time here. With that growth comes distance on shots and the game changes a little bit. When you hit the ball farther, it’s a lot more fun to play sometimes. The great strength and conditioning staff here really helped me to develop the physical side of my game. Distance is a large part of golf today, so keeping up means everything.
Being a local kid, does playing golf at NDSU mean exponentially more compared to someone not from the Fargo-Moorhead area?
I absolutely love it. We have a freshman coming in next season who is also from Moorhead, so I have loved being able to share my experiences with him. I can’t imagine going anywhere else because it’s such a great community. The athletics community alone, with staff, boosters and facilities like this have been reason enough to stay. When I was growing up, coach Kennedy coached high school with my grandpa, so I knew him too. It just felt right and it’s a great fit still. I can’t complain too much, right? I’m 20 minutes from a home-cooked meal or maybe some laundry, too.
A lot of kids want to go south and they want to try and play in the warm weather. I think with technology and our schedule, we get to the south. It’s not like we’re playing exclusively in the Dakotas or upper Midwest, but we also have the new simulator and the bubble. Having both of those offerings is great. Guys can get better here and I think that’s one of the reasons why I am so happy with coming here.
I chose to be here because it’s such a great atmosphere and aside from the negative 20 days, I can’t imagine going anywhere else. It’s just such a great community here.
Since printing, Johnson has opted to forgo his fifth year of eligibility and begin his career in golf.
Hometown: Moorhead, Minn