NDSU golf is never far from the mind of former Bison great Amy Olson
FARGO—The consistency of excellence of Amy Olson's record-setting college golf career was remarkable. She won five tournaments per year and left North Dakota State in 2013 as the all-time wins leader in NCAA women's golf history with 20.
It was a breakthrough period of Bison golf—NDSU won the Summit League tournament title in 2013 and advanced to the NCAA Division I tournament for the first time in program history. Olson, who was Amy Anderson in college, was certainly the biggest reason why.
And when she left for the LPGA Tour after her senior season, the theory was the program had its one-hit wonder and would fall back to the middle of the pack again.
The theory was wrong.
And Olson couldn't be happier.
"It was one of those things where I didn't have expectations one way or the other," she said of the Bison program. "It's not easy to compete on a national level and especially from a place where they didn't practice outside before the conference championship. Even if you have the talent or work ethic, that's not something where you sit down and say, oh yeah, this should happen. But what a great surprise and also well deserved."
She'll get a first-hand look at her alma mater at the NCAA Madison Regional on Wednesday. She plans on walking the University Ridge Golf Course in Madison, Wis., and watching all five of NDSU's players.
The tournament started Monday and the Bison had their share of struggles. They're in 18th place in the 18-team regional that consists of three rounds. The top four Bison scores were 27-over-par.
Olson was in a Memphis, Tenn., airport on Monday afternoon after playing in a pro-am tournament. She took last week's LPGA tournament off and the tour doesn't have a tourney this weekend, so it made for a natural break.
She said the credit starts with head coach Matt Johnson and his ability to not only recruit good players but quality people.
"They just have a great culture on that team," Olson said. "From the work ethic, the drive to improve, they push each other and support each other and that will build a good program. He'll find a way to get whatever they need to improve their game to the next level. He did a great job with me with that. It's going to be fun to watch what Natalie does when she graduates."
Senior Natalie Roth, NDSU's best player, had her team's best score on Monday with a four-over 76. She's going to give professional golf a shot this season.
Olson also had a hand in coaching Roth when she served as a Bison volunteer assistant in the fall of 2016 during an extended LPGA break. It gave her a chance, she said, to look at every player's game individually.
"They have solid fundamentals with their swings," she said. "That was fun for me to watch. It's a lot more stressful watching someone as a coach but that was fun."
It's been a banner year so far for Olson on the LPGA Tour. She's made the cut in all eight tournaments she's played and already has a career-high for earnings in one season with $126,288. She's 38th on the money list and that figure most likely will guarantee she'll get her tour card for 2019 even if she doesn't make another dime.
That's unlikely, of course, given her performance to date.
She's 20th in greens in regulation in the latest LPGA statistics at 73 percent, meaning she's facing a birdie opportunity seven out of 10 times.
"To sum up the year, consistent," she said. "When you're playing on the weekend, it's a good week. I think I've just had some good play and even on the weeks where I'm not feeling it, it's still been good enough to make some money."
It will most likely be the last tourney of the season for the Bison unless they make a huge recovery. Even so, having their greatest player on hand would be a good way to end the season.
Olson said she won't be nervous watching her old team. Then she paused.
"I always say that and then I end up with sweaty palms," she said. "I'll support and cheer them on and see some birdies."