FARGO-Maybe it was all those swings with Will Holmgren's right leg when he was playing soccer growing up. Or maybe it was the leg swings as the kicker for the Wayzata High School football team in the Twin Cities.

Whatever the case, the hip ailment that developed last fall as a junior golfer for North Dakota State escalated from tolerable to unbearable.

Golfers with hip pain can be somewhat common on senior tours across the country, but not so much in the Division I golf arena. He's in good health now with the Bison in Stockton, Calif., Monday for the first of three rounds in the NCAA regional-the result of winning their first Summit League tournament title.

At least Holmgren can sleep pain-free, something that wasn't the case last fall.

"It got to the point when I would go to bed at night and it would be in serious pain," Holmgren said. "I mean, it was a ritual to take Tylenol PM just to go to sleep."

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Holmgren played in the first two fall tournaments for the Bison, although he wasn't at full strength. NDSU won the Omaha Invitational, a tourney where Holmgren started with a 71 and two rounds later ended with an 81.

The Bison won the Colgate Memorial Invitational, again with Holmgren struggling by the third day shooting an 84. The Zach Johnson Invitational in Des Moines, Iowa, three weeks later was the last straw.

"That's when it hit me it's not fun playing golf like this," Holmgren said. "It always seemed the worse I would play the worse it would get and I wasn't play very well, it just seemed to hurt all the time. I would be waking up in the morning already in pain and not wanting to walk the course and play."

Holmgren had surgery Oct. 24 at Twin Cities Orthopedics. Getting back into the Bison starting lineup was going to take some time, and perhaps hitting a high point on the frustration meter considering NDSU was off to one of the best starts in school history.

He started walking with the aid of a crutch three weeks after the procedure, which addressed a torn labrum in multiple spots and minor cartilage damage.

"It was a long process to getting back swinging a golf club," Holmgren said.

So long that he knew the exact point from surgery to his first swing in a tournament. Three months and 18 days. The first two tournaments, he admits, maybe was rushing the comeback a bit.

Even so, he shot a 1-over 73 in the first round of the Savannah Invitational on Feb. 18. That would remain his low round until the Summit tourney when he shot a 1-under 71 in the final round.

"It took until two weeks before conference to slow everything down," he said. "I went out there and got it done. That was fun, a good ending to a tough year for me."

NDSU will need another break-through performance this week to get through the Stockton Regional as The Reserve at Spanos Park. The top five teams reach the NCAA Division I Men's Golf Championships.

"I think we're a pretty loose team," Holmgren said. "We have a lot of great golfers on this team right now and everyone is playing well. Everyone is in a good place and coming in with a free mind."

What: NCAA Division I Stockton Regional

When: Monday-Wednesday

Where: Stockton, Calif.

Results: www.golfstat.com