Nov. 4, 2005
by Brandon Blaska
It's been said that hardship and struggles build character and success -- just ask Husky golfer Erik Olson.
The Renton native entered the 2005 season under pressure to follow up a breakout 2004 campaign, during which the freshman had earned honorable mention All-America honors with a 33rd-place finish at the NCAA Championships, leading UW to sixth. So, all he did was lead UW to a sweep of Pac-10 individual and team titles, and a program-best third-place finish at the NCAAs.
It shouldn't be a surprise that Olson didn't succumb to pressure, however -- just consider the obstacles he has already overcome.
Diagnosed with diabetes at age 16, Olson must keep a constant watch on his blood-sugar levels to avoid dizziness, exhaustion, or even seizures. It's enough of a challenge for any diabetes sufferer, but even more significant for one attempting to compete at the highest level of collegiate athletics.
"Having diabetes affects everything I do," Olson says. "From how I eat my meals, to how much I eat, to what kind of food I eat. It all has an impact on my health."
Rather than be set back by the disease, however, Olson has accepted it as a challenge. He says the most important factor towards controlling the disease is time management -- structuring his schoolwork, practice and competition schedules and social time in such a manner so as not to put his body under any undue stress.
"I have to make sure everything is balanced -- not staying up too late when I'm hanging out with my friends, getting my schoolwork done a couple of days early so that I don't have to cram in one night," he says. "If I have any extra stress on my body, I'm probably not going to perform at the level I should be performing at because I'll be tired or my blood-sugar levels will be spiking. It makes it tough to play."
So far, this careful balancing act doesn't seem to be affecting the junior's endurance. Olson's 43 rounds played in 2004-05 equaled the third-most ever by a Husky and brought his two-year total to 83 rounds played, putting him on pace to eclipse the school record of 165 set by Brock Mackenzie from 2001-04. Furthermore, Olson's five-career top-10 finishes rank ninth on UW's all-time list, while his Pac-10 title was just the third ever won by a Husky golfer.
Perhaps it's fitting that Olson's game should be defined by his perseverance through hardship -- his introduction to the game was no different.
"My dad introduced golf to me when I was really little, but I didn't really start playing until sixth grade after I got into an accident," he recalls. "I was hit by a car getting off of a school bus and I had a compound fracture in my right leg. I really couldn't do anything over the summer -- all I could do was walk, so I just played golf and got hooked on it."
Entering the 2005-06 season, Olson is hooked on the idea of leading the Huskies to a sixth-straight NCAA Championships appearance -- a feat accomplished by just six other teams.
Given his ability to turn crisis into opportunity, perhaps Olson should hope for some hardship to arise -- it might be just what he needs to push himself, and the Huskies, all the way to the top.