by Neil Morgan, CBU Sports Information Intern
6,148 miles. That is the distance Nathalie Silva had to travel to become the first national champion in California Baptist University women’s golf history.
Women’s golf at CBU has never been stronger than it is this year, as the team is currently ranked No. 3 in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) after spending time at No. 1 early in the season.
The Lancers earned the No. 1-ranking by performing well in tournaments this season, as well as posting back-to-back Top 3 finishes at the NAIA National Tournament over the last two seasons.
A major contribution to the teams’ success has been the play of a pair of Brazilian imports, Silva and Adriana Niclotti.
Silva came to CBU from her hometown of Sao Paulo. As a freshman last year, Silva won the NAIA Individual National Championship with a four-round score of 301.
“It was amazing winning the title,” said Silva. “I did not play well all semester, then it all came together at nationals,”
Silva was also named an NAIA All-American, and was sixth in the NAIA in scoring average.
She grew up in Sao Paulo watching her father play golf, so it was a natural move for her to pick up the sport at age 15 when she began playing in amateur tournaments.
One of her favorite golfing memories came during a big Brazilian tournament as she shot four-under par on her birthday.
Her performance in these tournaments caught the attention of recruiters and she decided to bring her talents to CBU after graduating high school.
“Adriana was one of the biggest reasons I wanted to come to CBU, it was good to know there was a fellow Brazilian on the team,” said Silva. “It has been difficult to adjust being without family, but Adriana and I have become best friends.”
Niclotti arrived at CBU two full seasons before Silva and had to make the adjustment without a fellow countrywoman.
Niclotti began golfing at the age of nine, because she had brothers who worked at a golf course. She took a job there as well and worked on her swing a few times a week after work.
She continued golfing at an amateur level until the age 18, when she was approached by a student-athlete recruiting agency that offered her the chance to play in the United States.
“They offered me the chance to play in Kansas or in California, and when my mom heard about tornados and bad weather in Kansas my decision was made,” said Niclotti.
Niclotti came to CBU the following year and made an immediate impact, earning All-American honorable mention honors her freshman year.
She was unable to play in the national tournament in her first season, but played well the second year, leading the tournament for the first two days.
“When I first arrived in America it was like the honeymoon phase, everything was perfect,” said Niclotti. ‘Then I realized after two weeks that I was not going home.”
She went on to earn All-American honors the next two seasons and played a major role in the success of the program.
For both women it has been a relatively smooth transition to CBU after living almost 20 years of their lives in Brazil.
“To be here at CBU has been amazing,” said Silva. “The support we receive is so different than in Brazil.”
Not only do they have each other, but the pair also has found great support from Head Coach Lane Pace.
“I am so thankful that we have had coach Pace with us,” said Silva. “He has been the head of our family as we are so far away from home.”
“He is like my father here in America,” said Niclotti. “He helps me not only with my golf, but also with my personal life.”
Both women talk about how they have been able to find so many opportunities in the United States that they never would have found in Brazil.
“There are no women’s professional leagues in Brazil and it is also much more expensive to play the sport,” said Niclotti.
Niclotti plans to give professional golf a chance after she earns her degree, but she also has plans to move to Hawaii and open a golf resort sometime in the future as well.
In the meantime both golfers are contributing strong play as CBU gears up for another run at a national title in late May.
“We know that we have a good chance to win the championship this year,” said Silva. “We want to win for the seniors, coaches and to show everyone we can do it.”
With three All-American honors, an individual national championship and dozens of amateur tournaments in Brazil between the two, Niclotti and Silva bring experience and stability to a young program at CBU.
“We have a big chance to win, we are ranked high and have been improving each tournament,” said Niclotti. “We just need to keep everyone on track.”
With a bond as close as this, 6,148 miles seems like a short par three for two of CBU’s brightest stars.