Eat breakfast with the whole family. Leave home at 7. Ride the bus to school. School from 8 to 1. Homework on the 20-minute bus ride back home. Eat pasta with the family for lunch. Bike to the golf course five minutes from home. Practice until dark. Finish homework. Sleep. Wake up. Repeat.
In Duren, Germany, 12-year-old Nicola Rossler had the self-imposed demands of a collegiate golfer. The decision to play golf competitively changed everything. Family, golf and school were now her life.
Growing up in the western part of Germany, Rossler was exposed to a variety of sports but says she “wasn’t particularly good at anything.” Rossler had two older sisters and initially followed their paths by trying horseback riding. But she found something she was better at: golf.
“I would go with my sisters to the horse, but it was always like, ‘Oh, you’ve got to do this’ or ‘You are not doing this right,’ but golf is my thing,” she says.
Starting golf at the age of 10 — a little later than most competitive golfers — was not a problem. Because she was a natural golfer, the years missed were not a factor. The independence she needed to keep herself committed to the sport was also not a problem, as she had already learned how to do things on her own. Her parents were both very busy with their jobs when she started playing competitively, and they had taught her how to manage her time.
The decision to turn the game into a competitive sport for her was her own choice. Her talent, dedication and passion quickly paid off, and she began to ascend the rankings in Germany. Rossler became part of the county team at the age of 12 — the youngest player on the team. Not only did she maintain her usual practice schedule of going to the course near her house daily, but her mom also had to drive her an hour per week to a different course to work with a better coach so she could improve her swing even more.
The extra work was worth every kilometer. Rossler played so well that she crossed another barrier. At 14, she putted her way onto the German Ladies National Team.
“When I was 14, (golf) was probably the biggest thing in my life,” she says.
Joining such an important team at such a young age forced her into environments that most 14-year-olds don’t have to deal with. Playing on the national team required large amounts of traveling, especially as the winter snow in Germany forced the team to hold practice camps in Spain.
“It made me really independent, because my mom would drop me off at the airport, but then I was the only one flying out of the city where I lived, so it was like, ‘OK, I’ll meet you guys in Spain,’ ” Rossler says.
On the national team, she found a small group of friends that she became quite close to. And by the time she was 18, Rossler had seen the majority of the countries in Europe, her favorite being Norway.
“It was just very pretty,” she says. “The landscape there is so different than Germany, but it’s just beautiful.”
One of the most fulfilling tournaments Rossler participated in during her early career was the Junior Solheim Cup in 2007. The previous year, she had tried out for the Junior Ryder Cup and was named the first alternate. She describes the experience as “heartbreaking,” but it only made her work harder on perfecting her swing. Her dedication paid off once again when she made the Solheim Cup team, a more prestigious and competitive tournament than the Ryder Cup.
The Solheim Cup puts the 12 best female junior players from Europe against the 12 best from the United States. Rossler won all of her matches in the two-day tournament and helped her team get the win. But the most valuable experience for Rossler was the diversity of people she meant and the experience of the event.
“It was just fun,” she says. “Playing with these girls from different continents. Competing against the best of the best.”
There were, however, disadvantages to traveling all over the world to participate in camps and events. Many school days had to be missed to keep up with her busy golf schedule, but Rossler never stopped working.
“She had to manage very quickly how to organize her time, and she took it very seriously — and like that, she became very organized very early,” Peter Rossler says of his daughter.
Her organization paid off, as she managed to end her schooling with a 1.2 GPA, which in Germany is similar to a 4.0 GPA.
Needing to miss so much school made having friends hard, but the close group she did have never left her side. Rossler never had to question whether her friends would be there to help her out and support her in all the time out she missed. Whether it was giving her notes from classes she missed or just understanding what role golf played in her life, they were always there.
Rossler played on the national team from age 14 to age 18 and had originally planned on going to England for school, as her grandmother is English. But things changed when she realized how strong her love of golf was. It soon became clear to her that there was only one option.
“In Germany, it’s really hard to play golf at a really high level and study, and I’m not a person who compromises,” she says. “So I was like, if I want to do golf and study, then really, the U.S. was the only place.”
Getting recruited by Cal — and coming to the United States to play golf and study — was the result of all of Rossler’s hard work and dedication to her sport. She used her experience and knowledge to help her team win the Pac-12 championships during her sophomore year. She is now the team captain and the sole senior on the team.
No matter where she is, her priorities are still the same: family, golf and school.
Alaina Getzenberg covers golf. Contact her at [email protected]