FARGO - They were career-best professional golf seasons for local players Tom Hoge and Amy Olson. Both are in their mid-20s and both made unprecedented strides this year in earnings and confidence.
Yet, in a testament to how cruel the game can be, both feel like they left something on the course.
"It was a step in the right direction but I'm not quite where I want to be as far as finishing off the year," Hoge said.
Both players came oh-so-close to winning their first PGA and LPGA tournaments. Hoge, a Fargo South graduate, had a one-shot lead heading to the 16th tee at the Sony Open in Hawaii last January, but finished one shot out of first place. He double bogied No. 16.
At the time, it was still a highlight considering the top-10 finish locked up his full status for the season.
"But the more I look back on it now, the more it stings," Hoge said. "I caught a bad break on 16. You would have liked to have finished that off and that would have changed the whole year."
Olson, from Oxbow, N.D., and a North Dakota State graduate, held a one-shot lead heading to the 18th tee at the The Evian Championship in France last Sunday, Sept. 16. Like Hoge, she double bogied and finished in a tie for second by one shot. It was a learning moment for Olson, who is on her fifth full season on tour.
It was the second time this season she was in the final grouping for an LPGA major. She finished in a tie for ninth in the ANA Inspiration in March, the first time she was in contention for a victory.
"All you can really ask for is to put yourself in position," she said. "I've given myself chances and it's something I'm proud of. I didn't have chances the previous four years. I learned a lot of things and the next time I'll be more prepared for it."
Learning things like knowing the emotions and feelings of being on the 18th tee while leading a major championship.
"Those are things you can't replicate in practice," Olson said. "The only way to prepare for it is to be in it so I think having been in that situation and having the experience I know what to expect going forward. You can't put enough value on that."
It's been a busy couple days since the tournament. Olson flew from France to Sioux Falls, S.D., on Monday for a two-day event with Sanford POWER Golf Academy. She spent about five hours of her flight to the U.S. answering messages of support.
"The outpouring has really been encouraging," she said.
Olson still has four tournaments left in the LPGA calendar year. She's playing three overseas and the CME Group Tour Championship in mid-November. She's 34th on the LPGA money list at just over $500,000.
Hoge's year has been more than encouraging. The Web.com Tour Finals that determine 50 PGA Tour card spots for next season is going on this week. Hoge, meanwhile, is back at practice and gearing up for the start of the PGA Tour calendar season that begins in two weeks at the Safeway Open in Napa, Calif.
"It's nice not to be there for once," Hoge said of the Web.com event.
Hoge has full status for the upcoming season, meaning he's guaranteed starts in most tournaments except the majors. He played in 31 events this year making the cut in 20 of them. He had three top-10 finishes and made it past the first tournament in the FedEx Cup finals. His earnings of almost $1.4 million was a career high, which put him 94th on the PGA money list.
Like Olson, being in the hunt for a tournament title is just different. He also finished in a tie for 10th in the Zurich Classic of New Orleans and a tie for seventh in the Shriners Hospital for Children Open.
"The best way I can explain it, it feels like the round drags on forever," Hoge said. "Every shot means so much and you put so much into it. Getting to the 18th takes a long time. There are a lot of different emotions and you just have to stay the course and put yourself in position."