Detroit Lakes, Minn.
Former Detroit Lakes High School golf standouts and recent North Dakota State University graduates Natalie Roth and Trisa Hutchinson are acclimating to life after college golf with the game not far from the pursuits of both women.
"I'm not playing a lot of tournaments, it's more the fun stuff for me because I start grad school in two weeks," Hutchinson said.
Hutchinson is jumping right back into school at the University of Mary in Fargo to get her graduate degree in Occupational Therapy.
"For the first summer in, literally, my entire life I haven't had some sort of competition," she said. "It's been really weird. I like to be busy and have things to do. It keeps you sharp and it's important to take time for yourself, but it's also important to take the time you have to give back to other people."
For Roth, golf swept her away from school even prior to her graduation ceremony.
"I chose not to walk because I had a tournament the next day," she said. "So, I've just chosen to stay competitive."
Roth is working at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minn., and uses the practice facilities there, while playing every day, along with the other courses in the metro.
"DL has been so great to me, but I just thought the cities offers a lot of variety," Roth said. "It's been a lot of fun down there."
That variety is needed as Roth, recently named the Summit League women's golfer of the year, is preparing for a run to the first stage of LPGA Tour Qualifying School in August in Rancho Mirage, Calif.
There are three stages of the school with Venice, Fla., for the second round and finishing in Pinehurst, N.C. Out of approximately 300 initial entrants, the top 100 make the cut to move to the next stage.
"It's basically an extended tournament," Roth said. "I'm in the process of extending my circle, looking for sponsors and meeting as many people as I can. I'm playing in a lot of tournaments this summer."
Roth got her bachelor's degree in psychology with plans to go to chiropractic school, but golf changed that.
"I had a little success in college and I just love the game so much," said Roth. "I like the fact that I know I'm not at the top of my game and I have room to improve. It's my dream to play on the LPGA and I believe I can do it. I'm surrounding myself with the right people and I think that will help me get there."
One key mentor is Amy Olson, NDSU's most decorated women's golfer and a current member of the LPGA. Olson has already gained full LPGA status for 2019 prior to the mid-season after a pair of top-10 finishes and four top-25 finishes in 11 events. She has surpassed $500,000 in career earnings.
"She's on my speed dial," Roth laughed. "I try to talk to Amy as much as I can without annoying her. Last time I talked to her we were talking about the tournaments she played in after she graduated and the whole process of talking to sponsors. That can sometimes be a difficult conversation. She's been a great mentor. She's so nice and willing to give any advice she can. She's had a phenomenal year."
Olson's path has given Roth an outline on pursuing the LPGA and also a strong reminder that it is a process.
"My plan isn't two months long," said Roth. "I've written it out to about two years. I'm thinking where am I going to be in two, three years? I have to have options and some good people that are advising me in the right direction."
While Roth was leading the Bison in her senior season, Hutchinson was busy leading in a different way.
"In my last couple years, I wasn't in the lineup that much," said Hutchinson. "I didn't work any less hard than anyone else. It taught me that life is bigger than just a sport. That can be your passion and you can make a career out of it. I was important and still had a role even if the chips didn't fall my way. I took the opportunity to push my teammates. It was more in perspective, taking an extra moment while I was playing to enjoy it and appreciate it."
Roth was quick to back up Hutchinson's importance to the team and the success they had this year.
"She's always been a great leader," Roth said. "Watching her step into a bigger role each year, she's always had a huge impact on people. Nobody on our team is more respected than Trisa. She's bigger than golf and realizes it's just a game and there's more to life. She will be remembered the most."
Hutchinson's attitude is a key tangent to her upcoming occupational therapy career.
"It's my passion to help others and make them the best they can be," she said. "In OT, you don't just do it for someone, you take their dreams and goals and make a plan for them to reach their potential."
Hutchinson is also joining the coaching realm this fall. She's going to be the assistant former NDSU teammate and Fargo South head coach Sarah Storandt.
Both golfers are using the past four years to better themselves on the course and off and relish the time they spent at NDSU, despite the long hours it takes to be a successful student-athlete.
"Your passion for the game has to be there 100 percent," said Roth. "It's not easy; there are a lot of days you've just got to grind through it, but it's so rewarding. The people we meet and are coached by; we play the best sport because our arena changes every time. The places we've been able to travel to, I would never imagined that I'd go there. Our bad day is better than most."
Looking back at their careers, the success was there, but the relationships they built are what stand out.
"Honestly, I couldn't tell you about the wins we had," said Roth. "It was more about the trips we took. We just have so much fun together."
NDSU head coach Matt Johnson employs the whole team in recruiting incoming freshman or transfers, making each player part of the decision-making process.
"He gets our input," said Hutchinson. "One sour egg and the team falls apart."
The former Lakers duo have been attached at the hip and meshed together by the game of golf since middle school. With a bit of distance between them this summer, there is a bit of change and adaptation necessary.
"Nat and I are best friends," said Hutchinson. "Even when we're apart, we'll stay in touch. It's going to be weird when we would have started up for practice and not having that."
Johnson has had a profound impact on both women.
"Being the coach of women's golf at NDSU is his dream job," said Roth. "He loves it. When he shows up with a good attitude and is ready to go that bounces off of us and we all vibe off of that. He's been a blessing to every player that has gone to NDSU."
The DL legacy at NDSU will continue this fall when 2018 graduate and Lakers team leader Maddie Herzog joins the Bison ranks.
"It's awesome," said Hutchinson. "I'm not taking credit for her going there, but we played together and I was, 'So, where are you going to go to school?"
Herzog was pondering Concordia in Moorhead, but Hutchinson made the pitch for NDSU and helped make the sell.
"NDSU is literally one big family, especially student-athletes," said Hutchinson. "It's definitely a championship mindset there."
Watching Herzog and this year's Detroit Lakes girls team cement a third consecutive Minnesota Class 2A state championship and a sixth in seven years, dating back to when Roth and Hutchinson were Lakers, is another championship mindset - one that they had big contributions in creating.
"I love it," said Roth. "Golf is not easy. We understand what it takes to win, but for the girls to carry on and win year after year, it's so impressive and not just something in the water. It's these girls deciding they want to keep the legacy alive and stay competitive."