Nicole Abelar isn’t afraid to step out of her comfort zone.
Two years ago, she left home and began a new life as a college student living alone in the United States.
She learned how to clean her rented apartment, cook her food and wash her clothes.
The 20-year-old daughter of a retired Tarlac politician goes to the University of Houston where she’s a member of the varsity golf team.
This week, she made another big decision.
After failing to make the cut in the US Women’s Amateur Championship in Washington last week, Nicole flew to San Francisco, California where she met coach Jon Horner, a 36-year-old American who made the list of Gold Digest’s most talented young golf instructors last year.
“I played with a Fil-American who plays for Pepperdine U during the US Am. I loved her swing and the way she played,” she recalled. “I told my mom to ask her mom about her coach.”
Nicole said she found out that Horner works with Lexi Thompson’s coach and has worked with a lot of Asians on tour and in college.
She booked two sessions with Horner and was pleased with the results.
“The change is mostly in the downswing. Before impact, I like have the so-called chicken wing before I flick the club,” Nicole explained.
She said Horner wanted her to keep her right arm closer to the body and pretend to hit fades.
“The farthest I hit my driver ever was 250 yards. During the first session, I was able to hit 260 for the very first time,” she recalled. “It’s still a work in progress.”
Nicole said Horner reset everything.
“We practiced the swing with irons and driver. He’s now part of my team. We will be moving forward while I’m playing in Houston,” she said.
To reinforce the new swing, Nicole said Horner provided her with a set of drills.
“Hopefully, I can visit him once a month depending on our season,” she said.
Nicole said she would work hard to get used to her new swing when she returns to Houston on Wednesday.
She made it clear, however, that two-time Ladies Professional Golf Association Tour winner Jennifer Rosales remains her coach.
“She’s (Rosales) been one of my idols ever since I was a little girl starting to play golf,” Nicole said.
Before Horner and Rosales, Nicole worked with Norman Sto. Domingo, Carito Villaroman, Shane Warde and Rick Gibson.
No one in Nicole’s clan played golf, ironically.
“When I was five years old, I saw the plastic clubs that were Winnie da Pooh. I thought it was cute. I knew absolutely nothing about golf,” she recalled.
Her family used to go to resorts on Sundays. One time, they were at Eastridge in Binangonan, Rizal.
“I had my plastic clubs then and started hitting balls at the range,” she recalled.
Nicole said she knew golf was going to be her passion the moment she got her first club — a pitching wedge.
“I would wake up my mom at 4 a.m. before going to school to practice,” she narrated.
One thing she learned from Rosales was the word discipline.
“Coach J-Ro is very strict and straightforward. She knew the struggle and the word discipline,” she narrated.
Nicole remembered the time she would always complain about the weather or her swing.
“She would always tell me to suck it up and remind me to put my feet on the ground,” she said.
“She would always tell my college coaches I view the world as rainbows and unicorns so I have to work on my journey.”
Nicole better heeds Rosales’ counsel as she continues to pursue her dreams.
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