Freshman golfer Rae wise beyond her years


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Iowa golfer Nicole Rae is one of the most mature people you could ever meet — and the freshman from St. Charles, Ill., has needed that maturity in the past year.

"Champion" is a word Rae is familiar with; her grandfather, Andy Miceli — who passed away over the summer — used the word often about his granddaughter.

"He loved the game of golf, and he always called her his champion," Rae's father, Ron Rae, said. "He loved the fact that she was a golfer. He was her biggest fan, and I think the fact that he loved the game so much just carried over to her."

Nicole Rae picked up the game when she was 4 and accompanied her father to the St. Charles Country Club.

"It was Mother's Day, and we were having brunch, and I saw a bunch of golfers," she said. "I told my dad I wanted to go do it, and I begged him all day until he finally took me out."

Her father said Rae spent a lot of time with him while he played on the course after that day, riding along in the golf cart and watching. When she decided she wanted to play as well, her father asked the club professional to shorten a few clubs for her.

Rae played soccer until she was 10, when she told her father she wanted to quit the sport to focus on golf. From that point on, she competed in tournaments against other top junior golfers.

Her mother, Mary Rae, said her daughter's experience playing competitive golf gave her a level of maturity not common in girls so young.

That maturity was needed when Mary Rae was diagnosed with breast cancer last year.

"It's a hard thing for your family to accept — especially for a daughter, who really counts on her mom to be there all the time," she said.

But she said her daughter seemed to take things in stride.

"She really surprised me, because this kid really stepped up to the plate," Mary Rae said. "All of the sudden, this 17-year-old is helping doing housework, cooking meals, doing laundry. It was really amazing to me that no one ever had to say anything; she just slid right in there and starting doing it all."

Nicole Rae said she's open with this information because she's proud of her mother, and, she said, she doesn't think any of her Iowa teammates — besides fellow freshmen Lauren English and Shelby Phillips — know about the situation.

While most of her teammates and coaches may not know about Rae's mature approach to her family life, they have picked up on her responsibility by seeing how she approaches the game.

Coach Megan Menzel said Rae is a "very mature freshman," and it shows in how she carries herself. Sophomore Karly Grouwinkel said Rae knows what she wants and does what she needs to in order to attain her goals.

"She's very focused about what she does," Grouwinkel said.

Anna Daley can attest to that. Daley is a junior at St. Charles East High and Rae's former teammate; she was recently diagnosed with leukemia and can no longer play golf.

Ron Rae said his daughter came home last weekend to visit Daley, a visit he said lasted for over four hours.

"[Daley]'s a pretty big inspiration for me right now," Nicole Rae said. "I want to try to do my best for her, because I know she can't play right now. It's really hard for her because she loves the sport."

Ron Rae said the visit was typical of his daughter's character.

"She's a tremendous giving person," he said. "That's a quality like no other."

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