Photo By Kayleigh Omang
From top to bottom, it’s hard to find many weak points in Andrew Israelson. On the golf course, he has been a mainstay for Steve Kennedy and the Bison since his freshman year. He is a three-time member of the All-Summit League Team, two of those distinctions being on the conference’s first team. Israelson still holds the school record for the lowest 18- hole round shooting a 64 in 2017.
Yet, there is more to Andrew Israelson than just golf. It’s true that the game has made him a household name to those who follow Bison athletics, but it is what he has done off the course that is equally impressive. Israelson is a three-time member of the Summit League’s Academic Honor Roll.
Looking at the body of work on paper and it’s really hard to find holes in Andrew Israelson. It’s because there really is no distinguishable weakness in anything he does, at least not one that is detrimental to his performance on and off the course. The senior will likely go down as one of the best Bison golfers to walk through campus when his collegiate career wraps up in early May.
While it’s hard for the normal person to pinpoint any weak points in Andrew Israelson as a golfer, he has been able to self-assess himself over his time in Fargo. The Staples, Minnesota, native says it is his commitment to the mental side of golf that has improved most as a Bison.
“My game has really grown from a mental standpoint. I really haven’t changed my game over the course of my college career playing-wise, but mentally you learn a lot more patience. You mature and become more grown-up almost. You understand that there will be hardships and falls during a round and you understand you have to bounce back,” Israelson said. “It’s been a lot easier for me to bounce back these last two years compared to when I was a freshman or sophomore. You have to learn to let things go and that the most important shot is the next shot.”
As the lone senior on this year’s team, Israelson has seen his leadership ability shift slightly in his final year. Bison golf saw some shake-ups in the roster after their fall season, providing a host of adversity to the current team as spring approached. While it was a challenge to overcome that adversity, Israelson says he believes this year’s group is something special from a chemistry standpoint.
“Golf is unique in the aspect of it being an individual sport, but for us, in college with a team dynamic, it’s really something special. You play as a team in high school, but it’s more of an individual sport, you’re working for yourself. Once you get to college, it’s really a team atmosphere and you’re with your guys day in and day out working out, practicing and they’re really pushing you to get better,” he said.
“It’s usually kind of easy to be that veteran on a collegiate golf team, but this year has been different. We’ve had some shake-ups with our team, some events happening, some guys leaving the team. It was really important to get our guys to buy into the culture of Bison golf even more. We came together and have kept working and it’s really important that we’re a close-knit group of guys. In the long run and we’ll find out eventually, but that adversity will help us be more competitive on the golf course.”
Another challenge that goes unnoticed by many is the way the collegiate golf season sets up for NDSU. They play a fall slate of tournaments before hitting a mini-offseason in the winter. They will then play their spring schedule in which the conference tournament is played. Following the collegiate season comes perhaps the most vital aspect of player development, the summer. In that sense, one cannot truly say golf has a true offseason.
Israelson sees that as an advantage and not a challenge.
“I really enjoy how golf is split up. We do kind of have three seasons in a sense and I kind of look at it backward. I look at it as a summer season first and that, in my opinion, is more important from an individual standpoint. That gets you to grow your game and the fall season is a time to see that growth play out. You also get to see how the team is shaping up compared to the year before but at the same time, it’s not as crucial as when you come to the spring,” Israelson said. “Obviously, that is the most important part of the collegiate season. We could have a really poor fall and play really great in the spring and it makes up for everything. I really enjoy golf because of that because in high school you just get that one
season. Once you come to college you get to see your growth from one season to the next not just one year to the next.”
Israelson picked up where he left off in this year’s fall schedule. He did not finish outside the top 20 in all four of NDSU’s fall tournaments. His score to par steadily improved over those four tournaments as well. At NDSU’s final two tournaments of the fall, the senior shot a one-under and four-under respectively. Both of those scores were good for a top-ten finish and a top-five finish for Israelson.
This early success in the fall can be chalked up to the fantastic summer Israelson had. He captured victories in a few summer tournaments and made it past the first round of US Open local qualifying. Where did his motivation come from? A poor taste in his mouth following last year’s spring season.
Israelson tied for the individual Summit League championship last season in Newton, Kansas. While it officially says he tied for the win a playoff determined that he was not the conference’s outright winner. That stinging loss helped Israelson improve ahead of his senior season.
“It left me with a bad taste in my mouth, but in golf, I think that is a really good thing. I had the best summer of my career in golf this year and I think that shows how much of a learning experience losing can be. Although I did tie for first, I ended up losing in the playoff to move on. That stung at that moment and it took me about a week to get over, but it was probably the best thing that could have happened to me,” Israelson said. “It made me want to work that much harder. Two weeks after that I made it through the first round of US Open local qualifying and I had a couple wins in the summer too. That really pushed me to keep working and grinding on my game. Hopefully, that keeps showing up.”
Israelson knows how sweet an individual championship would feel after last year’s result. However, he also knows how it feels to win a team conference championship, which the Bison won back in 2018. In his mind, he would give anything to capture a team title rather than individual accolades.
“I’d trade anything right now to win the conference as a team. Just since we have gone through some adversity this year and I think winning the conference would mean the world to me. Our team is looking really good to have something special coming up in a few months,” he said. “Winning individually would be a goal as well, but overall it’s way more fun to win as a team. I can say from experience that I’d trade anything for a team championship any day of the week.”
At a surface level, it does not seem that Andrew Israelson has any discernible weakness on the golf course. Upon talking with him, you’ll learn that is not the case and his game has plenty of room for improvement. Given his already impressive body of work at NDSU, his final stretch as a Bison may be one of the most remarkable the program has ever seen.