COOK — Surprisingly, North Woods golfer Coley Olson didn’t have any interest in the sport before seventh grade came around.
She joined the team that year and made her first state tournament by season’s end. Now a junior, Olson has been to five straight state meets and recently finished tied for seventh place.
“I fell in love with it halfway through that year,’’ she said Tuesday at Vermilion Fairways in Cook. “I was addicted. I was hooked.’’
Her mom Kandi (also the head girls’ golf coach) and dad Todd wanted her to start in the sport at a younger age, but Olson had other thoughts as she watched her brother Tate Olson hit the links.
Her brother eventually got her into it and the rest is history.
Once she joined the team, Tate took charge of helping her practice. Olson said her brother often said, “Coley, we’re going to the course’’ and then he would take her there. “He just loved it so much that it rubbed off on me.’’
Fast forward to 2019 and Olson won the Section 7A individual title, North Woods won as a team, and the Grizzlies junior medaled at the State Class A Tournament with her seventh place finish.
For her success, Olson has been named the All-Iron Range Girls’ Golfer of the Year by the Mesabi Daily News, Hibbing Daily Tribune and Grand Rapids Herald-Review.
Medaling was far from guaranteed, however, on the final day at state. Olson finished her round with a 90, for a two-day total of 173.
From there it was a waiting game for the 17-year-old to see how the rest of the golfers finished.
“It was nerve-wracking for sure,’’ she said, “counting to see how many people were ahead of me. It was exciting.’’
“She had a little bit of a slow start (on round two) so for her to be able to keep her wits about her and really battle back into the medals was really a big deal,’’ Kandi Olson said. “She could easily just fallen apart and let it go at that point and just acknowledge that this wasn’t her year, but she didn’t. She fought back and she said, ‘I’m going to get there. I’m going to be there.’ At the end of the round, we knew it was close. We had to literally wait until every group came in. ... It was awesome to see her get that medal.’’
The biggest key to her success was fine tuning her mental game.
With that in mind, Olson said she was able to play out of tough spots at state. “It was a struggle sometimes, but I was just trying to keep myself level headed and play well after that.’’
“I’ve gotten so much better in the last year or so (at being less emotional). I used to be horrible about that, but I have improved so much.’’
Olson added that she has grown up a lot in the past year. “I think that was the main thing for me. Just maturity and growing up.’’
The junior (and soon-to-be senior) said her mom and coaches have always stressed the importance of being level headed over the years. “It finally stuck this time.’’
Kandi Olson agreed with how big of a role that played at state last month.
“Coley has always been a very emotional golfer. Usually a very exciting golfer to watch because she would have such high highs. She found that she needed to find a place where she could still enjoy that but yet maintain more of a level emotional state throughout the round. And she really did capture that towards the end of the season. That’s what helped her stay in the round at the end of the day. Working on her mental game was probably the most important thing she did this year.’’
Looking ahead to next season, Olson wants to improve even more. Despite the seventh place finish, she says she didn’t play her best in 2019.
“I hope to do better for sure’’ in 2020. “So I hope that next year I play even better.’’
“I’m just going to have to practice a lot,’’ she said, and “get a lot more consistent.’’
She doesn’t have any specific clubs she wants to work on, though. “I need to get more consistent overall with everything I think,’’ which will come with time and repetition.
Her goals including making it back to the state tournament next spring.
“I just want to do better. I want to play my best at state. I want to finish the state tournament feeling Like I did everything I possibly could.’’
Kandi Olson added that Coley will continue to work on her game this summer while playing in several Junior PGA tournaments, which will help her keep a competitive edge. “She’s excited to keep working on her game and see where it takes her.’’
Looking back on the 2019 season, Olson was thrilled to win the Section 7A title again in 2019. She tied for first in 2018.
“That was super exciting, but it was more exciting to win it as a team too. We didn’t know that we had a chance of going to state as a team, so that was awesome. State is so much more fun when you go as a team. Having my little sister (Victoria, 7th grade) there with me this year was awesome.’’
“She was so excited to be there’’ and nervous. “I just tried to help settle her down a little bit I guess.’’
Playing against the best golfers in the East Range Conference was also “exciting. I have such good competition in my conference. (Eveleth-Gilbert golfers) Molly Albrecht and Taya Kwiatkowski are both so good. Every tournament is super competitive. It’s super fun too, because I get along with them super well. We’re all such good friends, so the whole season is fun.’’
The girls had some tight battles all year.
“A different person could win every single meet we go to,’’ Olson said.
For the 17-year-old, having her mom coaching her at all the meets also helped her succeed.
“It helps a lot for sure just having her around all the time. I can ask her questions at home and anywhere.’’
Besides being a standout golfer, Kandi Olson said Coley “is just growing into a great leader on and off the course. She’s an excellent student. All of her teammates know she will always maintain her course work, her class work, and figure out a way to balance that. She talks about that as well as what she needs to do on the course. It’s been really good for the team’’ to have a leader that’s both a student and an athlete.
The All-Iron Range Girls’ Golf Team (including all area state participants) is as follows: Coley Olson, North Woods; Kylie Parsons, North Woods; Taya Kwiatkowski, Eveleth-Gilbert; Mollie Albrecht, Eveleth-Gilbert; Maria Gherardi, Hibbing; Julia Wick, Bigfork; Haley Bogdan, North Woods; Victoria Olson, North Woods; Kadence Holland, North Woods; Morgan Burnett, North Woods.