Fri. Jul 19th, 2024

Cole Hanson is switching gears from Division-I hockey to Division-I golf

By admin Jun13,2024

Jun. 4—GRAND FORKS — Cole Hanson was recruited by several colleges when he was a senior at Grand Forks Central.

But not to play hockey.

“I was more sought-after for golf,” he said. “Hockey. . . I had nothing coming out of high school. I talked to a school here and there, but it was nothing like they wanted me to come or anything. It was more just getting to know me. Golf. . . I had legit interest.

“But growing up in Grand Forks, I wanted to be a D-I hockey player. That was my dream, watching UND and going to games.”

Hanson did make it.

After playing two years of junior hockey in New Mexico, he landed a spot at Colgate. From there, he hit the transfer portal and ended up at the University of Maine, where he helped the Black Bears reach the NCAA tournament this spring.

Hanson intended to play his final year of college hockey at Augustana, but things have changed.

“I was starting to get back into training for hockey and I just didn’t have the same love for it,” he said. “I couldn’t be 100 percent committed to the process of lifting every day and training really hard like I want to. I was a little burned out.”

Hanson’s father, Rob, suggested he try to qualify for the U.S. Open golf tournament.

So last month, Hanson drove 30 hours from Maine to Sioux Falls, S.D., with a one-night stop in Grand Forks. He got a nine-hole practice round under his belt. Then, the next day, he competed.

With winds at 30 mph, Hanson shot a round of 71, finishing tied for fourth among the 86 golfers at the tournament. Hanson lost a one-hole playoff to advance and was named an alternate.

“It was a cool experience to know I still had it,” he said.

It also sparked Hanson’s interest in returning to golf.

He started emailing college golf programs that had recruited him five years earlier to see if any still had any interest. He had one caveat: He wanted to play in the South, where the weather permitted a longer golfing season.

Jason Payne, the head coach at Division-I Mercer University in Macon, Ga., got in touch.

“I talked to him for about two hours,” Hanson said. “He wanted to know the whole story. He asked a million questions about hockey. It takes a pretty cool coach to take a chance on someone who hasn’t played competitively for four years.”

After Hanson made an on-campus visit, Payne offered him a spot on the team.

Hanson will now return to the other sport he dominated at the high school level. The former North Dakota state individual champion has committed to play at Mercer beginning this fall.

“I’m really excited for golf, but it was a hard decision to make,” Hanson said. “I had been playing hockey my whole life. It definitely felt weird thinking I’m probably never going to play a competitive game again. It felt weird going from the NCAA tournament and playing in T.D. Garden against Macklin Celebrini to completely giving up the game.

“But I’m not giving up the competitive side. I’m still going to be a competitive athlete. I love golf. Honestly, I was probably more talented naturally at golf than hockey. That’s probably the truth. It’s been interesting getting back into it the last month.”

Even during his college hockey career, Hanson found time to golf in the summer.

“I actually got better as I left high school, because I was so much physically stronger,” Hanson said. “It does play a difference. I just hit the ball so much farther than when I was a kid. I still have that swing. I hadn’t really practiced, so my short game was rusty at times. But I’ve always been able to shoot a really good score.”

This summer, Hanson’s schedule is packed with tournaments — the Red River Amateur, U.S. Amateur qualifying, the Minnesota Amateur, the Palmetto Amateur in South Carolina and the Pine to Palm in Detroit Lakes, Minn.

“I’ve got to get back into playing competitive rounds consistently,” Hanson said.

Hanson will get to play both of his top sports at the Division-I level now.

“It’s pretty cool,” he said. “It would be even cooler if I get to college golf and be a good player and make something out of it.”


By admin

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