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Shaler's Abt bolsters Carlow golf team

| Friday, July 8, 2016, 8:15 p.m.
Shaler grad Natalie Abt will continue her golf career at Carlow.
Shaler grad Natalie Abt will continue her golf career at Carlow.

Finding success on the links doesn't require any outside prodding for Natalie Abt.

Any opportunity the Shaler graduate gets, she heads out to Birdsfoot Golf Course or Bob O'Connor Golf Course to practice.

Abt wants to be in a position to make an impression this fall. There will be plenty of opportunities for her to make a mark during her freshman year at Carlow.

Her coach, Shaler resident Ryan Shank, never has seen her play. It will be the program's first season.

Abt was the first golfer to commit to the program.

“I am excited to play college golf,” said Abt, who plans to study accounting and forensic accounting. “I'm more excited to make a mark and set a foundation.”

Shank, who was hired in late October, used a grassroots recruiting method to find Abt. A resident in the school district, Shank made connection at a community event.

“I was a little behind the 8-ball when it came to recruiting,” Shank said. “I went to the homecoming parade at Shaler, and the girls golf team had a booth. I talked to her high school coach, and she gave me Natalie's number.”

Titans coach Samantha Smyers coached Abt during her senior season. Abt was a three-time WPIAL qualifier and had a career-best 12th-place finish last fall. Smyers felt Abt would be a perfect fit for the young program.

“It's her work ethic,” Smyers said. “She's focused and goal-oriented. She always gives 110 percent and wants to do better. Natalie wants to meet her goals and excel past them.”

Abt's interest in golf started as something to do with her father. Then she competed in junior tournaments and started to improve. That's when Abt found herself drawn to the driving range and putting greens during her free time.

Right now, Abt's focus is on getting better around the greens.

“I think the short game is important because you can make up so many shots,” Abt said. “If you hit the ball well but don't make shots, those are strokes you would like to have back.”

Strong mental fortitude has Shank excited to have Abt on the team.

Even if he hasn't seen her swing.

“She's a great student,” Shank said. “When I talked to (Smyers), she said Natalie is a good leader. That's what we need for this program.

“We want athletes that are going to lay a good foundation, be dedicated and quality student-athletes.”

Josh Rizzo is a freelance writer.

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