The Staples native and North Dakota State University graduate made his professional golfer debut in the Hillcrest Invitational Pro-Am at Hillcrest Country Club in Yankton, South Dakota on the Dakota Tour . Israelson shot 5 in three rounds to miss the cut in his very first tournament as a pro.
“I kind of prepared for this,” Israelson said of going pro. “I have always dreamed of being a professional golfer and eventually participating in the PGA Tour. I just built on it throughout high school and college, just to have both the game and the confidence to do it and turn pro.
The individual element of golf made this choice a dream come true for Israelson, but also a challenge.
“Golf is one of those sports where you choose yourself,” Israelson said. “You are not chosen by a team, so I kind of built where I am right now.”
Israelson has received plenty of advice from other professional golfers, past and present, on how to approach the profession of a pro.
“Just ask them what it is, either financially or mentally and what you need to build on to improve yourself and what it is to be a professional and how to improve,” Israelson said. . “The most important thing, I think, is to keep the blinders on and keep the people important to your success around you, whether it’s your family or your coach, but you can’t listen to everyone. You need to know what you have and stick to your guns and see how well it works to begin with.
The rest of the summer, Israelson plans to take part in three more Dakota Tour events through the end of August. He then plans to spend the fall working on his game before heading to Arizona for the winter. Eventually, Israelson will go to School Q for the Korn Ferry Tour or the Mackenzie Tour.
“I haven’t quite decided,” Israelson said. “They have a Korn Ferry Q-School coming up this fall, but I’ve decided not to. I don’t think my game is in the right place and I think I better go with a better frame of mind. It’s good for me to settle down and feel comfortable with professional golf because it is different from amateur golf. Both because you play for money and for the type of golfers you play with. Eventually, I’ll be ready for a Q-School, but not quite yet.
The pressure of professional golf is something Israel enjoys.
“In professional golf you only play for yourself. It’s just you, he said. “You play to get a check and all that stuff. It’s just a little different, but I like the pressure. When you stand over a 10ft that counts and say to yourself, “OK, that might be worth x amount of money.” Where, as an amateur, you might think I’m going to break everything. In professional golf it’s all about making birdies and whatever that looks like it’s about getting the job done.
The goal for Israelson from the start is to get status on one of the smaller tours and build from there.
“I think the best route for me is to get Latin American Tour or Mackenzie Tour status and go on a higher tour,” he said. “A lot of guys are trying to qualify for the Korn Ferry events on Monday at least. I just see my game last longer. I’m not a day old yet. Whether it’s any tour, it’s just about gaining status somewhere so you can play week after week. Where I’m at right now, I’m just trying to figure out what professional golf is like with the travel and grinding a lot.
Israelson currently lives in Bemidji and said it takes about seven hours to drive to Yankton to debut.
“The trip won’t be that bad,” he said. “I have been fortunate enough to live with a few host families or people I know or have come to know through connections. So it’s good to have that instead of being alone in a hotel room.
Israelson said his family, including his father Bill, who has performed on the PGA and Asian tours, have been only supportive.
“My family has been amazing,” he said. “The plan was still to get professional back then and they meant a lot to me. My dad is a very passive parent and that’s actually how I always wanted him and obviously he was always there to keep me positive or to work on something even outside of golf. My mother has always been easy to talk to too. Even though I sort of shelter it, it’s great to have a support group like them.
CONRAD ENGSTROM can be contacted at 218-855-5861 or [email protected] Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/the_rad34.