Teri Doss was ready to come home.
So — after three years of women’s golf and four years of undergraduate work at Mississippi State University — the former Paducah Tilghman star and 2015 KHSAA individual links champion is back in the Bluegrass, diligently preparing to use her final year of athletic eligibility as a graduate transfer for the Western Kentucky University Hilltoppers in Bowling Green.
To her, it wasn’t the easiest of decisions. Like the engineering degree (emphasis: cyber-security) she’s pursuing, there were a lot of moving parts.
After playing in 12 events for the Bulldogs from 2017-19 (33 rounds, 77.18 stroke average), Doss actually opted not to suit up this past 2019-20 campaign ... and not because of the coronavirus. Rather, she was contemplating hanging up the clubs altogether. Because of school. Because of her swing. Because she didn’t feel like herself.
“When I got into college, I started going through a lot swing changes that I’d never done in my life,” she said. “Before, I’d always pretty much done the same thing. Always worked with the same person. When I got to school, I started working with a different guy, and we were just trying to change a lot. I eventually just got bogged down, if I’m being honest. I went from feeling so excited about golf and thought everything was great in college, to — as far as golf swings go — I didn’t even know what mine was anymore. And I was struggling pretty bad. Nothing felt right. Nothing felt natural. I tried at it every day, and it was just nothing. I couldn’t get anything to go. It just wasn’t good. Other things on top of it just contributed to it. It wasn’t a good feeling for me, and I started catching myself thinking: ‘Do I even like this anymore?’ ‘What’s happening?’ ”
However, that love of golf never faded, and she entered the transfer portal in December 2019.
When WKU head coach Adam Gary inquired about coming to “The Hill,” Doss had to listen.
“He’s always been just phenomenal, and I’ve never heard a negative thing about him,” she added. “And I just felt like it was a really cool opportunity that I couldn’t pass up. To be closer to home, go there and play for him. It all just worked out even better than I could’ve possibly imagined. It allows me to start on my master’s degree while I’m there.”
After making the choice to return to competitive play, Doss reconnected with her old swing coach — former Country Club of Paducah professional Jason Stilley — and went back to working on her game, often at Paxton Park alongside her sister, Charli.
And while the typical summer slate hasn’t been the same due to coronavirus limitations, she’s spent the last two weeks in deep competition. On July 21-22, she fired a two-day 144 at Heritage Hills Golf Club to finish in a tie for seventh at the 24th Annual Women’s Kentucky Open. This past Monday and Tuesday, she was involved in the 90th Annual Ladies National Golf Association Championship at the TN Grasslands-Foxland Links Course in Gallatin, Tennessee, where she just missed a cut for the third day after shooting 79-78-157 (13-over par).
“It felt good to be back out there,” she said. “And I could tell a huge difference.”
Now, with two weeks left in the summer before heading to her final college campus, Doss feels like herself again.
And she’s excited about whatever this next season has in store.
“I think we’re going to have a really good team,” Doss said. “Adam has a ton of young girls coming in, and we also have one of the seniors (Mary Joiner) returning now — with the extra year of eligibility from the pandemic. And she was the best player, and set all kinds of records at WKU, and she’s actually a good friend of mine and I’m really excited to be playing with her.
“I think we’ll be really competitive. We don’t really know what our season’s going to look like right now with all of the circumstances, but hopefully we can get back to some sense of normalcy by the spring, and I really think we have a good chance to compete for a conference championship.
“I just feel like myself again. It feels like it’s the right move and the right place to be.”