From Walk-On to U.S. Amateur: NDSU’s Van Holmgren And His Journey As A Division One Athlete

Holmgren is going into his junior season with the Bison

FARGO, N.D. — Not every division one athlete earns a scholarship and not every walk on goes on to succeed at the division one level. North Dakota State golfer Van Holmgren is changing that stigma in his own way.

Holmgren had a very unconventional path to becoming a division one athlete. After becoming a Minnesota state champion as a high school senior, Holmgren had to earn his way on to NDSU golf as a walk–on.

“Van was a really good player as an eighth and nine grader. He grew nine inches one summer and he lost his swing for a little bit,” NDSU Men’s Golf Coach Steve Kennedy said. “Then his senior year he really got it back. When he hadn’t signed with anybody and started talking to him, I was really excited about getting him here.”

“After playing on the stage of a high school state tournament, I just felt it was an environment I could grow my game and master the craft,” Holmgren said. “I had a few clutch shots going in and I got addicted again to the game. I couldn’t let that feeling die. I wanted to chase it.”

Once Holmgren hit the course for the Bison, he flourished. Holmgren was named Summit League Newcomer of the Year and had five top-ten finishes as an individual.. The credit for his success came from his mindset after arriving on campus.

“Its his background. He’s always played competitive golf,” Kennedy said. “He has that desire to be the best. When he got here he wanted to be the best guy on the team.”

“Its a mentality I’ve made for myself. I had nothing to lose,” Holmgren said. “I really enjoyed having the opportunity that coach gave to me. He really made me feel relaxed and he gave me a lot of room to grow because there’s no where lower you can go when you’re a walk–on. I was just looking up and I’m still looking up for here.”

Holmgren kept on moving up. By his sophomore year, Holmgren was an All–Summit League First-Team selection and made the field this past summer at the 2019 U.S. Amateur at Pinehurst Country Club in North Carolina where Holmgren used that same underdog mentality he had from being a walk–on to upset the number three seed in the first round of match play.

“I’m just looking up. I’ve made my marks. All I can do is try my best and if I fail, so be it,” Holmgren said. “As long as I go there and do my preparation and keep my head up there’s nothing I can do wrong. No one is going to scold me for  not playing well if I tried.”

By upsetting a top seed and competing on the same stage as the best young golfers in the country, Holmgren developed a new confidence in himself.

“It made me feel proud I could play on that stage. I didn’t let nerves get in the way,” Holmgren said. “I was really happy with my focus because that’s what it takes. That course is so difficult where it can tear apart any player. I’m happy I played one of the hardest courses in the world and I think I fared pretty well. I go out and play our university course and other courses and I know I can beat the course because I beat that one.”

Now that Holmgren is back in Fargo getting ready for his junior season on the links, his success has pushed the rest of his teammates to become better.

“These guys they compete daily. They know what Van has done,” Kennedy said. “They know if they can hang with him, they’re good players. They’re confidence is growing also.”

“I’m excited to be back. I’m excited to play with my teammates who are my family,” Holmgren said. “It hasn’t changed much but I know what it takes to get to that next level. If our team can get a sense of that and keep going, I think we’ll be someone to look out for.”

Holmgren earned a partial scholarship after his freshmen year. His goal is to one day make it on the PGA Tour. Making it in the field at the U.S. Amateur is certainly a positive step in that direction.

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