When I think of a round of golf, I think of a sunny day, a few birds, some trees, and a couple of cold beers stowed back in the cart. I love golf. Except for when I hit a bad shot, then I hate golf—but just for a moment. Golf and I lead a song and dance of occasional encounters. I have had good rounds, and not-so-good rounds. I don’t play golf for the score though; I play it for the experience. I play it to enjoy an afternoon with good friends or family, and take a break from the daily grind.
This semester I met Nicola Rössler, who thinks of golf quite differently. Not only is she in Haas and on the Women’s Golf team here at Cal, she is also an international student from Germany. Just for a moment imagine that. One of those things is manageable, doing two would be a rough load, and accomplishing all three of those things is downright rare.
Nico is a junior golfer here at Cal. Born and raised in Germany she made her national team at the age of 14, and she has been golfing competitively ever since. Nico came to Cal and was an immediate standout for the Golden Bears. She shot an impressive 3 under par (69) in her first college round, and sunk a hole in one at the Pac-12 championships in 2011. Last year she and the team earned a National Championship as the 6th seeded Golden Bears edged USC on the final hole. This past weekend the Bears ended their season at the NCAA Western Regionals where they took 18th. Nico lead the Bears at 10 over par through 3 rounds.
Without further ado, Haas’ own, Nicola Rössler.
How did you start golfing?
I grew up as the youngest of three sisters and I was always really competitive growing up. I did a lot of random sports, but I started playing club golf when I was 10. Club golf is big in Germany, and I was able to rise up to the girl’s national team when I was 14. I was playing for them in tournaments all around Europe right up until I came to Cal.
So you are very used to playing sports while going to school then?
When I was very young at the county level it did not conflict much with school, but once I started playing for the national team there was a lot of conflict. When you are on the National team in Germany you end up having to travel a lot to get good enough weather to golf in. In the winters we would take a 4-day trip every 2 weeks. I really got used to balancing school and golf at that time, which has made my time at Cal a little bit easier.
What made you think of going to school here in the US, and why did you pick Cal?
I always wanted to go to school in the UK, but one of my teammates on the German national team actually went to Cal, and she suggested that I check it out. One of the Cal coaches saw me at the European team championships, and after that, more coaches approached me. I came on an official visit to Cal, and I loved it. The city seemed very European to me, and I really liked the coach.
You are the first women’s golfer to be accepted to Haas, tell us a bit about that.
It was my dad who originally urged me to check out Haas. My teammate from Germany also really suggested that I check it out so very early on I knew that I wanted to apply to Haas. It was hard in the beginning because it was my first semester as an international student, which had challenges of its own. My coach would ask me, “are you sure you want to do it? Nobody has ever done it before.”
For example UGBA 10 [lower division business course required to apply to Haas] conflicted with our practice schedule and that was of course not ideal. However now that I am in, she is very happy for me. There are three freshmen on the team this year that are planning on applying to Haas as well.
How has it been to be an Athlete in Haas?
At times it is really difficult to fit it all in. Some of the best Haas classes are electives, which are small classes with limited offering times, and when professors know that I will be missing a lot of class for golf, they are reluctant to let me join the class. On the flip side there is a lot of athlete support here at UC Berkeley. We have tutoring, which helped me get in, and it still helps me manage it all now.
Of course there is the constant parallel of competition in and out of the classroom. A lot of Haas classes require performance on the spot. I feel like it really helps having been in intense athletic situations. I am used to the pressure and it helps me. There are so many intelligence people in Haas, but performing on the spot is another kind of intelligence and I think that my time golfing has really cultivated that skill for me.
Challenging the status quo. I have a hard time accepting things. I always challenge my coaches, parents and professors. It has been like that since I was very young, and I think that it has a lot to do with being the youngest of three. Here at Haas the majority of professors really welcome this kind of attitude. This lets us think outside the box and really get at the big picture, which is a big reason why we are here anyways. Change is a good thing, and even when things remain the same, the act of thinking about that change is really beneficial to the overall environment. As an international student I always try to bring a new perspective.
What has been your favorite Haas class?
I loved 192N, which is Introduction to Social Entrepreneurship, which I loved because it was very realistic and applicable. We actually developed our own social enterprise. I also love 157, Managing People, which again, is really realistic and applicable to real life. We have been analyzing real organizations and their structures. I really love both professors.
[ProfessorShoutout©: 192N- Jim Schorr, 157- Whitney Hischier]
How does your typical week go as a golfer here at UC Berkeley?
There are a lot of early mornings. On the days that we have workouts, we are up at 5:30am to work out. By 8:30am we are on the course practicing. We will practice for a few hours, but I like to stick around after for a bit. By the time we get back to Cal, we have time to grab lunch and then we have class into the evening. A couple of days per week we schedule classes in the morning and then go to the course in the afternoon. On those days we do not get back to Cal until the evening. As busy as we are, I try to build in down time and social time. It is important to me to get golf and studying done first, but once in a while I have time to see friends, go out, and relax.
Golf is not exactly a traditional college sport, how is it different and similar to other team sports at Cal?
Well, as a sport, people do not always give it the respect of other sports. We still put in a lot of time, and we are very competitive. If people came to our workouts they might change their opinion of college golf.
There is also this perception that it is an individual sport. Yes, there are individual rankings, but people care much more about the team rankings. We are a team first. When my teammates are really in the flow making their shots, I pick up that energy as well. When we make a birdie we have a certain wave that we do to each other, and seeing that wave really gets my game going as well.
What has been your best moment as a Golden Bear golfer?
That is easy. That is our Pac-12 Championship last year. I was the youngest member on the team that year as a sophomore. We were ranked 6th in Pac-12 going into the championship, but we knew that if we all played we had a serious shot. We started playing really well until we were leading the tournament actually. On the last hole one of my teammates hit a birdie to beat USC by a stroke. It was a really special moment.
How has it been this year?
We have a young team. We have lost 3 seniors since then. As a young team it is a very different dynamic. We are trying our best to defend our title this year. The Pac-12 is an amazing conference for golf. For example last year we were 10th in the nation and 6th in the Pac-12. We are trying to stick to our goals and stay focused. If we stick to that then anything can happen.
Who has been your biggest role model?
The first is my dad. His father died young and he took over our family business. He has been doing that for a long time, yet he is still really open to change and improvement. He never stops developing as a person, and he has always been a great role model for me. He is driven and confident (without attitude), which was a great example for me growing up. He is amazing!
The second is Laura Davies, a professional golfer. She pulls off shots that nobody else even tries. She does it over and over. I consider myself a conservative golfer; so learning from her example is great for my golf game.
The final question, the golden question… what do you want to do in the future?
I am not sure. I am considering a lot of options. I really want to work here in the bay area after graduation. I would like to find out first-hand in a real business situation, what I am passionate about. At some point I want to go to grad school back in Europe. Hopefully after working a bit I will have a better idea of what to continue studying later on. Way down the line I would like to take over my family business.
Nico is a pleasure to be around. She has a good smile and an even better attitude. I guess that’s what it takes to balance competitive course work and a Division 1 sport (in a second language). Not only did I learn a lot about her in this process, I learned a lot about golf. I think the sport that I mentioned in my introduction is actually “weekend golf,” or “leisure golf.” My golf game is a break from the daily grind, and her golf game is a daily grind. It is this very persistence that has helped her be so successful here at Cal, and I wish her the best of luck in the future.
Congratulations on a good season and keep it up next year and beyond!
Nathan Tudhope: I was told to insert a little bio about myself, and I guess if you got this far, you might like to know a bit about me. I am an undergrad student at UC Berkeley studying Business Administration. I am a transfer student and I have loved every minute at Haas. I have never written publicly before, but writing about sports (Talia, and now Nico) has made it fun and enjoyable.
I play basketball and soccer in my free time, and I like to cook. I play club water polo here at Cal as well. Seeing as it is finals week (and I should be studying) I will keep it short, and for the same reason, please excuse any typos. Until next time—Nathan.