Lessons Learned From Golf Driving Nadine Dreher’s Next Professional Challenge
Golf isn’t a major sport in Austria. So naturally, as a native of the country’s capital of Vienna, Nadine Dreher came to the game rather late in life. But like so many around the world, once she was introduced to the game, she was hopelessly hooked.
“I started playing when I was 14 or 15 years old,” says the 2016 graduate of Louisiana State University. “Up to that point, I was focused on soccer and tennis, playing them six days a week. When I took up golf, however, it became a seven-day-a-week activity.”
Interestingly, it was a total coincidence that Nadine ever started playing in the first place. She remembers getting a flyer from the local course that said she could play for €100 / week. She decided to give it a shot with her mom and both found they really liked it.
As she strove for athletic excellence, Nadine knew she’d have to pick one sport and really dedicate herself to it. Soccer was the first to drop out of the equation, as when she turned 15, she knew she’d have to compete against young women much older than her as Austria’s junior programming only went up to U-15. It was now down to tennis and golf.
“I picked golf because every course is different, which isn’t true for tennis – it only has a few different playing surfaces to choose from and the court dimensions always remain the same. I also felt I had more opportunity to express my creativity with golf, as I had 14 clubs to choose from rather than just a single racket. Finally, with golf I could practice by myself, whereas with tennis I was constantly hunting for a partner to hit with.”
With her focus now clear and shooting around 80, she began working with a coach and practicing every day after school.
“My routine was practice, homework, sleep and repeat the next day. I loved the rhythm of that schedule. I was also fortunate to have a kind mom who supported me 100% and could always take me to practice and tournaments.”
Nadine improved rapidly and was invited to play on the Austrian national team when coaches saw her at a local tournament. Joining the team kicked up her dedication another notch, as she now added working out to her daily regimen. She participated in practice camps around the country and went to Florida and Dubai with the team during the snowy Austrian winter to continue her development.
Although she was traveling all over and getting better and better, Nadine never thought about college golf until one of her friends’ dads told her about a big junior event held in Florida at Doral every year just before Christmas. Almost on a whim, she flew there with her mom to play. It was her first time in the United States and, although she didn’t play too well, it was a great overall experience and set the course for her to pursue college golf.
She practiced really hard for the next 12 months and came back to the tournament the following year. This time she performed well. The offers from America’s best programs began pouring in, forcing her to make a decision.
“When we were at the tournament, my mom saw Karen Bahnsen, the LSU coach, and asked her to follow me. Coach watched me play a few holes that day and then 18 the next. She was impressed by my potential and athleticism and offered me a full scholarship.”
Nadine wanted to attend a university in the southern U.S. that had a good team. Her decision came down to LSU and Florida. The bond she’d formed with Coach Bahnsen ended up being the deciding factor. She was off to Baton Rouge for her next adventure.
“I had a good high school English teacher, so the language difference wasn’t the biggest adjustment I had to make to the U.S. Instead, it was the climate – it was so much hotter and more humid than I was used to. And whenever I was inside, I was always cold because the air conditioning had to be turned up so high!”
Nadine expected the step up in competition, so that wasn’t as big of a hurdle. She really enjoyed practicing with her teammates. As a rule, Coach Bahnsen held qualifying rounds for every tournament, which Nadine felt made her an even better player. She spent her freshman year fighting for the fifth spot in the lineup but improved from there.
“My favorite memories include the football games. There’s no stadium with a bigger capacity than 50,000 in Austria, so Tiger Stadium at twice the size was incredible to me. We also had the good fortune of being able to travel by private jet to 60 or 70% of our tournaments, so that was a huge treat. And we got to take some memorable and fun trips to places like Puerto Rico, Hilton Head and Busch Gardens. The four years flew by and I would do it again in a heartbeat.”
As a Tiger, Nadine also had the opportunity to compete in the ANNIKA Intercollegiate presented by 3M.
“I loved the clinic with Annika. I remember her hitting wedges on the range to someone who was fielding them with a baseball glove. I also remember competing against Arkansas’s Gaby Lopez who was a great player then and is now on the LPGA Tour.”
Nadine had professional golf dreams of her own and, with her degree in Sports Administration in hand, headed back to Europe for LET Q-School.
“I started really focusing on a professional golf career my junior year. I decided I didn’t want to have any regrets and was just going to go for it.”
Although she missed qualifying for the LET in 2017 by one stroke, she did earn playing privileges for the 2018 LET Access Series. The season, however, was a struggle for Nadine.
“I almost quit as I was having a really hard time with my swing. Toward the end of the season, I went back to the swing coach I used before heading to the U.S. to play at LSU. Within two months I had made many positive changes and was playing well again.”
Nadine went back to Q-School at the end of 2018 without any expectations. Playing with a freed-up mindset, she made the cut on the number to earn her LET card for the 2019 season.
Unfortunately, due to the tour’s financial difficulties, she only got seven starts while players with higher status enjoyed up to 12. But even in those limited starts, she didn’t play as well as she’d have hoped.
“My expectations were maybe a bit out of whack based on how well I’d played in Q-School.”
So, at end of 2019, Nadine had a decision to make about her future. Playing the LET and enjoying limited success made it tough to make ends meet. She realized she craved greater financial stability and didn’t have enough sponsors to give her the cushion she needed. Although she loved golf, Nadine made the difficult decision to walk away from the professional game. But there’s a silver lining to that tough choice.
“Due to the pandemic, the LET hasn’t been able to play since March. I was so lucky to quit just in time – everything really does happen for a reason.”
Always thinking one step ahead, while playing the LET Nadine decided to pursue a Masters degree from Danube University in Austria. Taking her study materials with her from tournament to tournament paid off handsomely, as she earned a degree that would make her that much more attractive to employers.
“In September, I began a management training program in sales for Austria’s Coca-Cola bottling company. I will rotate through our various sales departments every four to five months over the next two years. If I do well, I’ll then be invited to apply for a full-time job with the company. I’m really enjoying the experience so far and can’t wait to learn more.”
While Nadine still plays golf, for now it’s only on the weekends. But she still uses the lessons she’s learned from the game over the last 10 years on a daily basis.
“I’d tell a younger Nadine not to put too much pressure on herself and to never let her score define who she is or how she feels about herself. There will be highs and lows, so if you play poorly on a given day, it isn’t the end of the world!”
Nadine’s experience moving from relative beginner to NCAA scholarship golfer in just a few short years will unquestionably serve her well as she embarks on her new career path with Coca-Cola. It’s also yet another example of how golf and the lessons it teaches are so applicable to success in everyday life. Cheers to Nadine as she begins her climb up the corporate ladder!