PARKERSBURG - Natalie Perry is changing places again.
The 2012 Belpre High School graduate, who last month captured medalist honors at the Ohio Athletic Conference women's golf tournament for Otterbein University, has decided to take her talents to the Division II ranks at Alderson-Broaddus College.
"It's a bummer," said Otterbein head coach Chad Bucci. "Natalie is very easy to coach and was a really good listener. She definitely was the nucleus of our team. She'll do well for the Battlers and it's a good pick-up for them.
Photo courtesy of Otterbein University
Former Belpre Golden Eagle Natalie Perry prepares to try and sink a putt earlier this year during her freshman season at Otterbein University.
"Natalie and I had a great relationship and I told her I'm looking forward to seeing her and playing against her next year. Hopefully, we can find a tournament (with A-B) and our team can say hello to her. She told me she'd be a Cardinal at heart. That's all that matters."
Perry, a four-year starter for the Golden Eagles and a three-time first-team all-district honoree, not only helped the Cardinals to the OAC championship, but the program also qualified for the Division III national tournament. At nationals, Perry took 35th place overall out of 111 golfers and Otterbein finished 16th in the team standings.
"This is going to be the first year for golf at A-B. We'll be building from the ground up pretty much," stated Perry, who will continue pursuing her degree in nursing.
For the third consecutive summer, Perry has spent her time working at the Parkersburg Country Club. Not only is she busy trying to find time to fine tune her game, but she's also taking summer classes and admits, "I haven't been golfing as much as I should be. I'm trying to make sure I'm keeping my swing with good tempo.
"I need to be hitting more balls than I've been hitting and make sure my swing is in check. I think I'm going to switch back to the regular putter. Scott Davidson has been so generous and it's been great working at the country club. I'm not a member, but I work there and I can practice and play for free whenever I want. It's been a blessing to be able to do that."
While Perry fully admits she needs to continue working on her game from 60 yards and in, there's also the dreaded putter. For Perry, that's been an issue she's had to deal with for quite a long time as it's been an albatross in her game.
"I remember at her first collegiate tournament, she played in the Denison Invitational and hit the ball as well as she could that day, but her putting was absolutely horrendous and I told her I was getting her in a belly putter," said Bucci.
"After that, it was a completely-new Natalie Perry. She started shooting 74 and 78 and was a much more consistent player. She was a diamond in the rough for me."
Currently, Perry said she's not 100 percent sure whether she would go back to her old Titleist putter or stick with a belly putter.
"I was very thankful he switched me over and it worked out in my favor. That was a good change for me," she said. "I think once I knew I was sinking putts with it, it boosted my confidence."
Aside from topping the field at the OAC tournament, Perry also earned medalist honors last year at the Cardinal-Crusader Challenge and at the Heidelberg Fall Invitational.
"Coach (Scott) Miller (at Belpre) was a very good coach, but I learned a lot of my skills from my dad and my grandpa," admitted Perry. "They taught me anything I've ever known about golf.
"I think my confidence is knowing I always have a good swing from them. My problem is, it's more of a mental thing. I have a good swing. It's the mental side that tears me down."
With a new challenge on the horizon come August in the Division II ranks, Perry is just hoping things work out similarly as they did in her first year as a Cardinal.
"I'd like to keep lowering my scores and consistently shoot between 75 and 80," she said. "I don't want anymore than an 83. I need to knock down the strokes in putting and from 60 yards and in.
"If I can work on that to get consistency, I can compete with the girls in Division II, who are probably going to be shooting around that area. I want to be able to compete with them and I have to keep pushing myself to get to that point."