COOK — Around two years ago, Iowa’s William Penn University was the first school that talked to North Woods’ Coley Olson about playing golf at the next level.
Olson, a five-time State Golf Tournament participant, explored her options after that but decided the college in Oskaloosa was the one for her.
“I talked to a lot of golf coaches in between and I got some other offers, but it felt right,’’ Olson said of deciding to play for the Statesmen.
Olson wasn’t able to visit the campus due to the COVID-19 restrictions, “but I loved the coach and I got to meet a lot of the team too. They were all super and they all loved the coach and program and the school,’’ she said in a telephone interview. “Everyone I’ve talked to from that school has just loved it.’’
What was Olson’s reaction to sign her National Letter of Intent to play golf and study at William Penn?
“It was a such a relief to just have it so that I know where I’m going to.’’
A short time after the signing — held with her North Woods teammates — Olson was receiving text messages from her fellow golfers at William Penn expressing just how excited they were to have her on board.
Due to social distancing guidelines, the Grizzly girls and two boys golfers took part in the signing via Zoom, which was important to the 17-year-old.
“It meant so much to have them there, especially after not having a season this year. To have them there was awesome.’’
Kandi Olson, head girls’ golf coach and Coley’s mom, said the signing was definitely an exciting time.
“We tried to keep the excitement even though we live in different times now where they can’t have an in-school signing with their team with them.’’ Having everyone take part via Zoom made the signing a team moment too, she added. “Those girls that were a part of this whole thing were able to be there with her.’’
As a mother, coach Olson has seen just how hard her daughter has worked to get to this point.
“She’s a player who is very dedicated to her game. There were times when she would get up before school and go out to the golf course and invite the team with her. They would work on their short games before they’d go to school. Then they’d still have practice at night. It was exciting to see that she was one of the people who inspired that. I feel like she grew so much as a leader during that time as well.’’
As a coach, Olson said her daughter “was very exciting to watch, growing from a seventh-grader who didn’t expect to go to state at all and then shooting the round of her life her section championship round. I saw a sparkle light in her eye at that moment and knew from that point on she was really going to enjoy the sport. She has continued to grow each year and she set goals that she wanted to achieve and for the most part, she was headed on track to achieving most of those goals and dreams.’’
Coley Olson and all of her teammates were impacted by the coronavirus, which forced the cancellation of all high school spring sports in Minnesota.
The North Woods senior said she was “definitely sad, but I think about the bigger picture. There are more important things. I am very sad though that I don’t get that last year with my teammates, especially my other senior Kylie Parson. She’s not playing in college, so this is kind of her last shot. That breaks my heart for sure.’’
Kandi Olson added that her daughter had an “unbelievably good attitude regarding the coronavirus. She realizes that this is a much bigger problem than just losing a golf season. Her perspective on it has been truly amazing.
“I think she’s really grown as a person too. She knows she’s moving on to the level she was hoping to move on to. She’s going to be a college golfer and she’s got some goals and dreams academically, as well, so I think she knows this is just a small (and important) step in her life.’’
Coley joked that she missed out on going to state for the sixth-straight year, which would have beaten out her older brother Tate Olson, who went five times.
“I was super excited to get six and beat him, but I didn’t get that chance. He will not let me forget it,’’ she kidded.
Looking back on her stellar prep career, Olson said she had so much fun her whole high school career.
“I’m convinced I must have had the best, most fun team I could have possibly had. It was super fun to have my mom as a golf coach and my grandpa (Roger Makela) as an assistant. That’s something I’ll never get to experience again. I’m sad that there wasn’t one more year, but I’m so grateful for all the years that I had.’’
Coley is looking forward to getting in a lot of practice before she heads to Iowa in the fall.
She is heading to a golf program that has been very successful in recent years. She also plans to study biology or possibly switch to mathematics.
Kandi Olson is happy how everything worked out for Coley to attend William Penn.
“It feels like we’ve kind of come full circle and have realized that William Penn is the best fit for her.’’