Izzy GolfTales RJSmiley

Bill “IZZY” Isrealson

Playing tournament golf for 65 years I have met some fine people and great golfers. My friend Bill Isrealson ranks at the top in both categories. Read his story.

MINNESOTA’S GREATEST GOLF CHAMPION

Izzy has won All of Ten Biggest Golf Tournaments in Minnesota History: 

MN Junior Championship, MGA Amateur Championship, MN State Open, MN PGA Championship, MN PGA Match Play Championship, MN PGA Senior Championship, MN PGA Senior Match Play Championship, Tapemark  Pro-Am Championship, MN Golf Champion Tournament, MN Senior Open.  In addition, Izzy has won North Dakota Open and the Pine to Palm and the Birchmont.  Not bad for a laid back kid from Bemidji, MN.

My introduction to Bill Isrealson was in 1974 at the shortstop golf tournament at Brainerd Country Club.  When I saw this stocky kid dressed in a pair of cut-off jeans and worn-out FootJoys, my comment to no one in particular, “I don’t know who that kid is but he is the man to beat.”  With a well-worn stick bag on his shoulder, he had that confident “winner’s look” in his eyes.   Lucky for me we got paired with Izzy that day.  (I have had a front row seat for over fourth years.)  The first hole was a short par-5 with an island green.  Izzy hit driver, 7-iron to three feet for eagle-3.  Game over!!  I finished second that day, shooting 106, 2 under for 27 holes.  Izzy shot 93!!!  

I am not the only guy Izzy has beaten!  Over the past 5 decades, he has beaten everybody.

Izzy was introduced to golf as a caddy at Bemidji Town and Country Club where he learned the game.  When the golf bug bit him, Izzy spent all day every day during the summer playing golf.  Isrealson credits his golf coach and life long friend, Larry Perkins, with much of his success.  “Larry really took me under his wing and kept me focused on the “right” things,” Izzy says with a smile.  Larry tells the story of Izzy hitting shag balls from the first tee to a kid with a baseball glove up the fairway.  “Every evening we would stand on the deck and watch Izzy.  He would wave that kid farther down the fairway then hit balls that one-hopped into his glove.  We all knew he was something special.”   

After graduating from Lamar (Texas) University Izzy began traveling the world as a professional golfer.  He spent over ten years seeing the world and island hopping on the Asian Tour winning the Rolex Masters in Singapore in 1984.  Izzy qualified for and made the cut in the US Open in 1982 and 1985.  Shooting 31 on the back nine at Pebble Beach for 69 to make the cut in 1982.  In 1985 Izzy won the prestigious Taiwan Open that served as a springboard to a successful season on PGA tour in 1986.  In 1987 Izzy lost his tour card.

In August of 1988 Izzy made the biggest double bogie of his life.  Returning home from a golf tournament in southern Minnesota Izzy lost control of his car and was involved in a fatal accident.  

The mild-mannered man from up north was convicted of manslaughter and driving under the influence.  Izzy was devastated.

He spent several months in jail planning his future.  His life would include teaching kids to play golf… but more importantly he would focus on living “right” and taking responsibility.  During the time Izzy was paying the price to society, he was allowed to play in three MN PGA tournaments. (He was allowed to participate as part of the Work Release Program.)  Izzy proved what a great player can do, even with no practice, winning all three with an average score of 68.3.  Upon his release from jail, Izzy returned to the Asian Tour winning the Singapore Open in 1992.  The victory in Singapore earned him full year’s exemption on the Australian Tour.  

Izzy did not take advantage of the exemption, instead he returned to his Staples, MN home because he and, doctor wife, Sarah were starting a family.

With the gypsy life of a world traveling professional golfer behind him, Izzy has used Larry Perkins as a model and given back to the game that he loves.  He teaches kids how to play golf and live the “right” way.  Bill and Sarah have three children all of whom play golf but his youngest two seem the most likely to follow in their fathers footsteps.  Both play college golf and have impressive records.

Izzy grew up in one small Minnesota town and ending up in another.  In-between, Izzy has entertained golf fans with his golf skills and taught kids how to play golf and live right.  More importantly, Izzy has shared “Minnesota Nice” with every person he has encountered around the world.   

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