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Area Golf: Israelson still on top of her game

Augustana Vikings Emily Israelson stares down one of her shots from last spring. Israelson said her decision to attend Augustana was her best decision yet. 1 / 3
Israelson tees off during the Pines/Preserve Invite as a sophomore for the Staples-Motley Cardinals on April 20, 2012. Israelson placed fourth that year. Dispatch File Photo 2 / 3
Gillette Children’s Speciality Healthcare Baxter Clinic hosts an open house with Kathy Molina, a certified orthotist/prosthetist who explains her duties in the laboratory on Tuesday, Aug. 7, to Dr. Kevin Murphy, a pediatric physician, Mindy Ostrowski, a nurse practitioner, Margaret Knebel, an occupational therapist and Jess O’Dell of United Cerebral Palsy. Steve Kohls / Brainerd Dispatch 3 / 3

Emily Israelson's name is still on the Augustana University women's golf roster despite graduating with her nursing degree almost two months ago.

Eventually, her name will be taken down from the school's athletic website and a chapter of her young life will close. But what a chapter it was. In fact, Israelson's life story to this point has been spectacular and golf has played a big part in that.

Thanks to her competitive nature and love for the game Israelson doesn't see that changing. And so far she's right. The 2014 Staples-Motley High School graduate defended her title at the Birchmont Golf Tournament July 23-28 at Bemidji Town and Country Club.

Israelson opened the match-play bracket by beating current S-M girls golfer Alix Peterson 8-6. She then topped former S-M player Mary Harris (Hasselberg) 6-5 before dispatching Abbie Kelm of Bemidji during the semifinal round.

In the championship, Israelson captured her second Birchmont with a 3-2 win over Haley Tollette of Andover.

"I hadn't really been playing as much golf this summer as I'm used to so I didn't have many expectations going in," Israelson said. "I just wanted to have fun. I probably played the best I ever have at Bemidji, consistently.

"In the match play I was under par every day and my driver was just straight. I hit good wedge shots and that just helped me win it."

Israelson grew up playing the Bemidji course and said it's one of her favorites. The fact that so many Staples residents compete in it and the fact she's not preparing for another year of college golf created a different experience for her.

"Oh yeah, definitely," Israelson said. "I put less pressure on myself and I'm just trying to go out there and fun. Once you realize that it really is just a game and I get to play instead of being at work or something like that it totally changes your mindset. If you hit a bad shot it's just 'whatever.'

"We had great weather. The course was in great condition and it's more like a family vacation. I just went into the tournament with that mindset. I'm very competitive, but it's just a bonus to have it wrapped around a family vacation."

The Birchmont wasn't her only win this season. She teamed with her brother and North Dakota State University player Andrew Israelson to finally win the MGA Mixed Amateur Team Championship July 2-3 at Forest Hills Golf Club. It's the pair's first victory after multiple runner-up finishes. They posted rounds of 66-68 to win by four strokes.

"It was nice to finally win, but I would say Andrew certainly carried us the second day," Israelson said. "The first day, I made a lot of pars and he made some birdies, which is usually, but the second day we just scrambled on the first nine for pars. Neither of us were playing that well. Then on the second nine, he hit some good shots and he was just steady.

"I would give him a little bit more of the credit."

During her four seasons at Augustana, Israelson helped the Vikings to four NCAA Division II National Championship tournaments. She was a Northern Sun Intercollegiate Conference Golfer of the Year award winner. She made the NSIC first team three times and the second team once. She was an NSIC All-Tournament team member all four years and was a WGCA All-Central Region team member three times to name a few of her college honors.

"It was probably the best decision I've made," Israelson said about attending Augustana. "I chose to go Division II, which is different than a lot of girls that were at my same level in high school. I wanted to play all four years and I got to play competitively and I got to go to national championships. I couldn't have asked for a better team or coach. Overall, Augustana was the best decision I ever made."

Israelson made her mark early by finishing ninth in the Class 2A state tournament as a freshman. She was fifth as a sophomore and ninth again as a senior. She was a four-time member of the all-state team won six tournaments as a senior and six as a junior. She was a member of the Minnesota Golf Association Tournament Championship team in 2014 and was won the MGA individual title in 2013 and 14.

"Golf has been, through and through, the biggest part of my life," Israelson said. "I could never give up the game. It's taught me so many life lessons. It's really taught me to never give up and preserver. It's what I do with my family when I hang out with them—we go golfing. It's kind of what glues us all together."

Israelson's next chapter of her life will take place in Nashville, Tenn. She was accepted into the nurse residency program at Vanderbilt University Medical Center.

"I really learned, once I went to Augustana, the value of hard work and persistence," Israelson said. "I took all the lessons I learned from high school golf and even from my first year at college and really just put them to use in school. I feel like the lessons I learned in golf have helped me be successful in so many different ways. I'm pretty proud, but you can always work harder."

Jeremy Millsop
My career at the Brainerd Dispatch began May 11, 1999 after graduating from North Dakota State University. My areas of emphasis includes local high school sports, Central Lakes College, the lakes area golf mecca and once a year I dabble in the NHRA when the Lucas Oil Nationals come to Brainerd International Raceway.
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