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Jeff Kolpack, Published May 26 2013

Driving forward: Amy Anderson ready to take a shot at professional golf

Fargo - The little pocket of the golf world with the epicenter in Oxbow, N.D., has watched her grow up, from the promising kid in local tournaments to being tied for the lead in the first round of the U.S. Women’s Open.

The folks have seen Amy Anderson smiling and laughing on Golf Channel interviews. They saw her win the U.S. Junior Girls Amateur championship. Those watching her play notice somebody who has always been polite and receptive to public support.

They saw a home-schooled recruit who grew up on the 12th hole of Oxbow Country Club enroll at North Dakota State. As an athlete, she’s carried the Bison flag about as well as anybody could.

The next time she formally returns to the school will be in the form of a Bison Hall of Fame induction.

But make no mistake, once the first tee is behind her, underneath the gracious exterior is an inner-competitive drive so discreet that hardly anybody notices. Her brother, Nathan Anderson, has seen it, saying there are times it gets tense on the course.

“She keeps it inside,” he said. “If you don’t have that fire, that desire that if losing doesn’t hurt very, very bad, you don’t have a chance to be good.”

Her mother, Twyla Anderson, has seen it – albeit from a distance while watching her play.

“It’s this interesting balance of what I would say is kindness and humility,” she said. “At the same time, she can get the job done. Whatever that switch is, she can do it. She does it so gently that you don’t even know it.”

That switch is about to make a big career change in the next couple of weeks when Amy officially turns professional. She’ll decide shortly on an agent or agency, a process that has been testing her 4.0 grade-point average intelligence.

“The hardest part is there is no set way to do it,” she said.

But it will be the first step that will take Oxbow’s native daughter on a quest for the LPGA Tour. It was just a matter of time before it was time to leave.

“I think we’re really open and ready for the next chapter for her,” Twyla said. “I think we all knew it was coming.”

What’s next? Ultimate goal is LPGA Q-School

Amy is in Colorado Springs, Colo., this week for one of 20 U.S. Women’s Open qualifiers. The course, The Broadmoor, has a good vibe – that’s where she was tied with Cristie Kerr in 2011 after the rain-delayed U.S. Open first round.

After that, she’s entered in two Canadian events in June. The target, however, is LPGA Qualifying School next fall, and that is the primary ticket to the LPGA Tour.

The top 20 players who earn their way through three stages get their tour card. Three of Amy’s teammates from the Curtis Cup last year – Lisa McCloskey, Austin Ernst and Brooke Pancake – earned their Tour cards in Q-School last fall.

Anderson’s plan includes moving to Florida during the winter months, although specific plans have yet to be finalized. She’s only 20 years old, but it’s time for a new frontier.

“It’s been a faith-builder, because there’s a lot of uncertainty and I know the tendency is to worry,” Amy said. “I know that’s my tendency. And I just constantly every day have to remind myself that if God wants me to do something with this, he’ll take care of it.”

Is she ready?

Her NDSU head coach, Matt Johnson, says her experience in competing with the top college players in the country will help. Her swing coach, Dale Helm, says she hits it so straight that she has as good of a chance as anybody.

Nathan, her older brother by one year, says she’s willing to put herself into situations where she can fail – and a lot of people won’t do that. Her mother says Amy has always been able to handle the next step in anything she’s done.

“There’s always that element of stress of the unknown,” Twyla said. “She transferred from home schooling to college and that went very well. She’ll probably do better than mom and dad. She goes with the flow pretty well.”

If Q-School doesn’t work out, it’s possible for Amy to reach the LPGA Tour in a couple of ways, with either a sponsorship exemption or to finish as one of the top 10 money leaders on the Symetra Tour, the women’s equivalent to the PGA’s Web.com Tour.

A key component will be to find the right agent, Amy said. They generally take care of a caddy, workout programs, sponsors and sponsorship exemptions. Depending on the agency, they can also handle accounting and legal issues and travel arrangements, such as host housing.

“Basically, they want you to focus on golf so they take care of everything else,” Amy said.

Why change? Helm to remain her swing coach

Johnson may have been Amy’s head coach at NDSU, but the man behind the swing is from Mayville, N.D. And nothing will change with Dale Helm.

“We’re going to stick with him,” Amy said. “I don’t see why we would change it now. We’re going to keep doing what’s working.”

Helm has his own workshop of sorts at his home. Last week, before sitting down for an interview for this story, Amy just returned from another trip to Mayville.

Once traveling the country, and once settled in Florida for the winter, the plan is to maintain communication through internet video. Helm, with his iPad, plans on coaching Amy’s swing one frame at a time, if needed.

“As long as the picture is taken from the correct angle and we’re all on the same page, it’s very good,” he said. “It’s a tremendous tool.”

He said Amy’s swing has remained pretty stable through the years. He said her faith will help her on the road, which at times can get lonely. And her ambition has never been questioned, he said.

She hits her driver long enough to be on the LPGA Tour right now, chuckling at a newspaper story that said she hits it only 260 yards.

“That was when she was 16 or 17 years old at the Pine to Palm and (Tom) Hoge beat her,” Helm said.

He said a friend walked off her last two drives in the Pine at the Detroit Country Club.

“The last two holes she hit it 285,” Helm said. “I never say how far somebody hits it. I would rather pleasantly surprise them.”

For instance, at the U.S. Women’s Open, drives were measured on two holes.

“One of them had traps in play, so she hit a 3-wood to take the traps out of play,” he said. “Her average was 270, yet one drive was with a 3-wood. She hits it plenty far.”

And straight. On average, Amy misses one fairway every other round, Helm said, which translates to 13½ fairways in a round taking out the usual four Par 3s.

How did it go? NDSU experience was all good

Although a year apart, Nathan and Amy signed with NDSU at the same time and have taken virtually the same path. Amy graduated in accounting and has five classes left for a master’s degree.

Nathan, also an outstanding student and will finish his master’s before Amy, is on track to obtaining his CPA.

He’ll be caddying for Amy when he can for the summer, but for the most part, they’ll go their separate ways for the first time in their lives.

“It’s getting there,” Nathan said. “But it’s OK, too. It’s not like something we’re dreading or anything.”

Their signing at NDSU raised some eyebrows in that both golfers had options in a warmer climate. Four years later, there are no regrets with anybody involved in the decision.

Amy won 18 career tournaments to pass Juli Inkster as the all-time collegiate wins leader. Inkster won 17 for San Jose State from 1979-82.

Johnson said he tried to balance the schedule, entering some tournaments that had better teams and better players that would push his top player.

“We didn’t want to play in tournaments where she would win by eight, 10 or 12 strokes all of the time,” he said. “We tried to give her competition and for the most part it worked out.”

Twyla said the support the two got from the community as a whole is something they may have not gotten out-of-state. Both were leaders on the NDSU Student-Athlete Advisory Council, testimony that both were heavy contributors to the university in more ways than walking around a golf course.

For instance, Amy wore her NDSU golf shirts on nationwide TV at the Open.

“She brought more recognition to a cross-section of people and fans about North Dakota State,” said NDSU athletic director Gene Taylor. “Obviously people hear about football and basketball but here is a young lady from North Dakota competing at a high level.”

Taylor said he received emails from people not affiliated in any way to NDSU who had a chance to meet Amy, at the Open for example. They couldn’t write enough nice things about her.

“Those things you can’t put a price on,” Taylor said. “I think beyond her golf talent, look at the type of person she is. We’re very, very fortunate to have had her in our program.”

Forum reporter Jeff Kolpack can be reached at (701) 241-5546.

Kolpack’s NDSU media blog can be found

at www.areavoices.com/bisonmedia