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Carlson lands dream job as U of M head golf coach

In five attempts in the Pine to Palm Golf Tournament, Bagley's John Carlson found some success by playing deep into match play.

But in the end, Carlson quite couldn't reach the top of the tournament by losing four times to eventual champions.

Carlson certainly has done better on the grander scale of life, though, as his ascension in the golf world has landed him his dream job.

Carlson was named the head coach of the University of Minnesota men's golf team by athletic director Joel Maturi, after a season of being the team's associate head coach.

"Our Men's program has enjoyed tremendous success and I am confident that John will continue to build on that tradition here at the University of Minnesota," said Maturi in an article posted on

It's a position which suits Carlson perfectly and one in which he can bring stability to after the Gophers have gone through two head coaches in a short amount of time.

"I'm realizing a dream," Carlson said. "Every player who grows up in Minnesota wants to be a part of the Gopher program. I think one of the reasons they hired me was because I was Minnesota born and golf is my passion.

"They are expecting me to be in the job until I retire."

That's definitely welcoming news for a program which has undergone some upheaval the last few years.

But with the hiring of Carlson, the Gophers hope it's smooth sailing ahead.

"I like John, he's very organized and he provides some stability to the team," said Gopher junior Erik Van Rooyen, who finished fourth in the Big 10 Championships as a sophomore. "It's good to have John, too, because he was here last year and we don't have to go through another coaching change."

Carlson's life has evolved around golf. He was a top prep player from Bagley, who moved on to play at the University of Wisconsin - Madison in 1997, where he won three tournaments and was a four-year letterwinner.

"Our teams in Wisconsin were always top five, so we played some consistent golf," Carlson added.

Carlson turned professional after graduating from college, where he played on the Nationwide and the NGA Tours for five years.

He enjoyed his pro golfing days, picking up 14 professional victories, but being on the road constantly finally took its toll.

"I was playing in a tournament in Oklahoma on July 4th weekend and I was talking with my wife and her friends on the phone," Carlson said. "They were sitting on Lake Minnetonka having fun and I was in a casino.

"That was the last straw."

After retiring from playing on the pro golf tours, he took on a job as a teaching pro at the Wayzata Country Club.

In 2010, John Harris was named Director of Golf at the U of M and he hired Carlson as the associate head men's coach.

"I learned a lot under John during my time with him," Carlson continued.

Carlson was not just handed the Gopher head coaching job, as Maturi interviewed several qualified prospects over the course of the summer.

But in the end, Carlson was the best bet.

"It was a fair process," the new head coach said.

His young team is appreciative of what Carlson brings to the table for them and in the end, it's about one thing for them -- winning.

"You need to be a great recruiter, that's a huge part of being a head coach," said junior Jon Trasamar.

Also being a mentor, as well as teacher, is an aspect a head golf coach needs.

"A coach needs to know when to separate from being a coach to being there for his players as a friend," added Van Rooyen, who is an international recruit from South Africa.

Recruiting will be Carlson's focus and he doesn't have to go far to find top players. They are here right in his backyard.

Minnesota and North Dakota has been a good pipeline for young talent over the last decade and Carlson will also focus on the Midwest -- as well as internationally.

"I can sell a lot of good things about attending the U of M and the Minneapolis area," Carlson said. "Minnesota has produced great golfers, because we do have 15 of the best golf courses in the nation and this is where the kids are playing."

Tradition has already been set at the U of M in golf, after the Gophers won the NCAA National Championship in 2002 and took third in 2006.

"Brad James did an incredible job with his international recruiting, along with a good mix of recruiting in Minnesota," Carlson said.

The Big 10 Conference is also an attraction for recruiting, since its one of the top conferences in the nation, as well.

Five teams qualified for the NCAA Championships and Carlson is hoping to start building his team for another run into the nationals.

"We are young with no seniors this year, but we have plenty of young talent to get back on track," Trasamar said.

Learning the many NCAA rules is a challenge, but Carlson has one simple answer to that one.

"If you make the morally correct decision, you'll be fine," he said.

Carlson's time at the Pine to Palm was a positive influence during his journey towards the U of M's head coaching job, as well.

"This tournament means a lot to me and it was a chance to meet one of the great families in the Gorden's," Carlson said.

In his new position, Carlson has become the new face of Minnesota golf.

It's a position he will relish having and one the Gophers can feel stability again on the links.

Brian Wierima
Detroit Lakes Newspapers Sports Editor for the last 15 years. St. Cloud State University graduate, who hails from Deer Creek, MN.