ON THE FIRST TEE

NEW PALESTINE — When Abby Poole tees off for the time first time at Huntington University, it will be a historic moment.

The recent New Palestine graduate was the first woman ever to enlist with the Foresters, who will enjoy their first women’s golf season this fall.

For Pete Schownir’s part, he said it was by the grace of God that Poole will take her first collegiate swing for Huntington this season.

The Foresters golf coach recalled it was only by happenstance Poole learned Huntington was even trying to add a women’s golf program.

“When Abby’s mom first called me back in March or April of last year, she had just spoke with a cousin that attended Huntington,” Schownir explained. “That’s how she found out we were starting a women’s golf team.”

The school, Schownir went on, was still in the fundraising stages of the process, but once he learned of Poole’s interest in his small Christian school and examined her impressive résumé, he didn’t let a little thing like there not being a team yet stop him.

“Once I saw what kind of girl she was, I said, ‘Oh boy, we have to have her,’” Schownir remembers. “I had to kind of go out on a limb to get things going.”

Though he did not wait until the team’s establishment was official to begin recruiting Poole, he was assured by the administration in June that he’d have the funds necessary to operate.

About a month later, he was sitting with Poole and her parents, watching his first recruit sign her letter of intent.

“Abby fits the profile of a student-athlete at Huntington perfectly,” Schownir said of why he felt compelled to bring Poole aboard. “I like her demeanor on the course. She is very composed, and of course she has a great amount of talent.”

Though the title of first recruit in school history comes with a lot of luster and probably some added pressure, the unflappable Poole, a four-time all-county and all-conference player, said the moniker will wreak little havoc on her nerves.

“I’m sure there will be a little pressure, but I’m going to be fine,” said the 19-year-old, who led the Dragons to a 12th-place finish at the state finals her senior season. “I’m sure at the first tournament I’ll be a little nervous, but I’ll adapt.”

Poole’s self-assurance is borne out of both her high skill-level and of the confidence she has in her setting. Huntington, which is located about two hours north of New Palestine, reminds her of home.

“I visited a lot of different campuses,” said Poole, who took trips to St. Francis and Marion universities among others. “But when I came to Huntington, I knew it was the one for me. Not only does it have a good nursing program, which is what I was looking for, but it was a small Christian school with teachers and administrators I really liked.”

As she said, it is not a far cry from what she became accustomed to after four years at New Palestine. It was an atmosphere she was eager to recreate.

What also gives Poole confidence is that she won’t be putting too much pressure on her putts, chips, drives or any other of her swings.

Athletics at a Division III school are supposed to be fun, Poole said, not life-consuming.

“I’m more concerned with the long-term,” she said. “I want to focus on my studies and eventually conduct medical missions. That’s why I’m in nursing and why I’m minoring in Spanish. I want to do something, hopefully in Latin America.”

While a Division I coach might not want to hear something like that, Schownir cited Poole’s practicality as one of the central reasons he was eager to claim Poole for the Foresters.

“I have a relatively calm demeanor. I’m pretty laid back, so I tend to recruit student-atheltes who are like that. And that’s what I saw in Abby,” said Schownir, who caddied for Poole at tournaments earlier this summer. “She’s a calm, self-assured, laid back person. And most of all, she has her priorities right in life.

“I’m really looking forward to seeing how she can leave her footprint on the university, not just in golf.”

Poole Play

Name: Abby Poole

Age: 19

Family: Wayne and Dee Dee (parents); Evan and Audrey (siblings)

Hometown: New Palestine

High school: New Palestine (Class of 2015)

College: Huntington University (Class of 2019)

Major: Nursing

Sport: Golf

Favorite Course: Hawk’s Tail

First match at Huntington: Sept. 4 at Indiana Wesleyan University

High school highlights: Won three straight individual sectional titles … Led Dragons to first ever sectional crown her senior season … Helped Dragons set new nine and 18 hole team records … Tied for 37th at state her senior year and led team to 12th place finish.