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Andrew Israelson beginning a pro golf path that his father began decades ago

Bill Israelson had a successful playing career including two years on the PGA Tour.

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Former North Dakota State golfer Andrew Israelson was a successful amateur player who is starting his way in professional golf. Robert Williams / Forum News Service

FARGO — There stands to be plenty of bumps, obstacles and challenges in the life of a professional golfer and in the last few weeks, Andrew Israelson began that journey that is taking a stop this weekend at the Fargo Country Club. Friday was another example.

He birdied his first two holes. It wasn’t much longer before heavy rains forced a delay in play in the Bobcat North Dakota Open.

“This is going to be a mental thing more than anything else,” he said of pro golf, “but I’m looking forward to it.”

It’s a path his father, Bill Israelson, drove plenty of times as a young adult. He reached the PGA Tour for a couple of full seasons in the mid-1980s, including one top-10 finish. Perhaps his best golf was played on the Asian Tour where he won three tournaments and finished runner up on three more occasions.

He’s been around.

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Bill Israelson played two years on the PGA Tour and is watching his son, Andrew, start a career in professional golf this month. Jeff Kolpack / The Forum

“There’s going to be some struggles out there,” Bill said, while sitting at the Fargo Country Club waiting out the rain delay. “There are going to be times like right now when you start thinking about getting the bad half of the draw as far as weather. It either makes you mentally tougher or exposes you that you’re not.”

Andrew was mentally tough on Friday, shooting a 1-under 71. He birdied two of his last three holes in a long first day. The Dakotas Tour tournament runs through Sunday.

Bill retired after years of running The Vintage Golf Club in Staples, Minn., a task he took on when his playing career ended. Andrew finished a standout career at North Dakota State two years ago.

The Bobcat is his fifth event. He missed two cuts and finished 19th and 20th in the other two. The plan is to continue to work on the game over the winter by moving to Arizona, work part-time at a course and maybe play a few Outlaw Tour events. The Golden State Tour in California is also a possibility.

“I know the opportunity Andrew is going to have and it’s not just the golf,” Bill said. “Certainly he has the body type of the tour player now — 6-feet tall and kind of slender. The game has gotten to the point where these guys are getting so good. It’s such a fine line. I’m really impressed with the players, even on the Dakotas Tour. They shoot some low numbers and they really play.”

Tony Albano Jr., can play; he shot a 9-under 63 for the first round lead. Defending champion Andre Metzger can play; he was one of three players to shoot a 6-under 66. Fargo’s Dave Schultz had a stretch of seven birdies in 10 holes in his 69.

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Darkness prevented all the players from finishing and the first round will be completed Saturday morning.

The Bobcat is the last event on the Dakotas Tour schedule. The winner receives $10,000 and entry fee for the Korn Ferry Qualifying School, the tour that is considered one step below the PGA Tour.

It’s a long road to make it to where the likes of Fargo’s Tom Hoge has gone.

"I’ve had a number of players, not just my son, but other guys who have talent ask me if they think they’re good enough," Bill said. "It’s really in their heart. They need to explore it because they’ll be disappointed when they’re 35, have a family and start thinking, 'I should have been out there playing,' whereas if you get it out of your system and move on with your life if you’re not good enough, you gave it a shot. And Andrew certainly wants to do that and he’ll get plenty of opportunities to see how good he can get."

Andrew said his game has been struggling a bit this summer. He also said he’s ready to tackle the lifestyle of pro golf. Moreover, there’s really not much of what Bill did on the PGA Tour in the 1980s that can translate into success right now.

“I’m just trying to do my own thing,” Andrew said. “Just trying to figure out not only how to play golf, but how to be an adult, honestly. I seem to learn more that way. The biggest thing for me is growing up. I’ve been on the road the last four weeks and I wouldn’t say it’s been hard, but it’s been different in a good way.”

Full results can be found at BobcatNDOpen.com.

Jeff would like to dispel the notion he was around when Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press, but he is on his third decade of reporting with Forum Communications. The son of a reporter and an English teacher, and the brother of a reporter, Jeff has worked at the Jamestown Sun, Bismarck Tribune and since 1990 The Forum, where he's covered North Dakota State athletics since 1995.
Jeff has covered all nine of NDSU's Division I FCS national football titles and has written three books: "Horns Up," "North Dakota Tough" and "Covid Kids." He is the radio host of "The Golf Show with Jeff Kolpack" April through August.
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