By TOM ZEBOLD
USF Senior Writer
TAMPA - Kelli Pry is the epitome of the phrase "timing is everything."
The lone senior on USF women's golf team wasn't even a blip on the Bulls' radar when she packed up and moved to Florida. Three seaons later the former two-sport Kutztown University standout is a vital member of a Bulls squad that captured the program's first-ever Big East Championship and booked a trip to NCAA Regionals.
"It's all about timing and everything happens for a reason. That's how I got here," Pry said.
The Coatesville, Pa., native's storybook path to Tampa can serve as inspiration for any athlete that's try to find his or her way in a respective sport.
Pry, also a collegiate swimmer, left Kutztown with the lowest two-year scoring average in school history when she wanted to start over and play college golf down south. Family members live in Lakeland and Clearwater, so Pry looked around those areas for schools that had solid golf and academic options.
"USF is kind of right in the middle of those two cities," Pry said. "I looked at the stats. The coached looked awesome and the school had a lot of science majors. It seemed like that would be something good for me."
That's where the timing factor really started to come into play. Pry quickly applied to USF and was accepted nine days before the fall semester was set to begin.
"I came home from vacation, packed up the car and was down in Florida like four days later," she said. "It was kind of like a whirlwind."
Pry admitted she hadn't spoken to head coach Marci Kornegay before the big move and decided to put herself in the right place at the right time by going out to a USF practice.
"I was hitting balls and was like, 'OK, I'm just going to introduce myself,'" Pry explained. "I went up, shook her hand and said I was interested in trying out. I didn't even know if she had spots on the team. I didn't know what could happen."
What transpired was a walk-on invitation at the end of October and Pry was practicing with the Bulls by January while sitting out of competition for a season. She played in eight tournaments last season and made a nice impact by placing 14th individually at the Big East Championship which helped the Bulls take third as a team.
What has made the experience totally worth it for Pry has been a senior season to remember. Pry has posted four top-25 finishes and her crowning achievement was getting into a tie for sixth at the Big East Championship. The Bulls had a five-shot lead over Notre Dame heading into the final round, re-took the lead late and withstood a charge from the Irish to defeat them by a single stroke on a windy Watson Course at Reunion Resort and Club on April 24.
"She's one of those really special athletes that knows when she has to step up," Kornegay said.
Pry knows that involves giving a little extra off the course as well and she admitted her leadership skills really started to strengthen in a gym of all places this past offseason. If you had trouble finishing a rep while lifting, you may have heard Pry's motivating voice.
"We had some really tough workouts and we made sure to encourage each other and realize we're all coming together for a common goal," Pry said. "I was constantly pushing... Being a leader on the team kind of pushed me to a place that I wasn't at before."
It also has gotten Pry closer to achieving her dream of making the LPGA Tour someday, although she does have a nice backup plan as a recent biomedical sciences graduate with honors.
"She's been a very good ambassador for the program," Kornegay said.
The first step will be making it happen on the golf course is getting through the first cut of the tour's initial qualifying stage this fall. Achieve that and she'll have an exemption for the Symetra Tour, a developmental stage that focuses on preparing golfers for the next step.
"My goal is to be ready for that in September," she said. "I can't seem to give up golf right now. I feel there are a lot of good things going right now."
Pry is happy to put that project on hold for a little while for what possibly could be USF's first trip to the NCAA Championship since 1991. Winning the Big East automatically qualified the Bulls for the NCAA Central Regional and they'll look to finish in the top eight to move on when play begins Thursday in Ohio.
"It's amazing what has happened in the last three years. Timing is everything," Pry said.