By DOUG ZALESKI
Doug Bishop won’t ever forget that cold day in February 2017 when he picked up his daughter, Teddi, from school.
The 8th-grader got in her dad’s car, looked him in the eyes, and stunned him with this revelation: “I want to play.”
Doug, a Class A PGA golf professional who owns MD’s Golf Academy in Muncie, was puzzled. “I said, ‘Play what?’ ” Teddi said she had decided she wanted to play golf competitively as a freshman at Central High School when school began the following August.
The proclamation was almost too much for him to digest in the moment. Despite Doug being involved in the golf business his entire life, Teddi never seemed interested in the sport. Oh, she would play a round or two with her family in the summers, but never developed a serious interest in the game.
But once she decided golf was for her, she jumped head first into the game with a passion that few high school athletes in any sport could surpass.
Teddi won the Muncie Central Sectional individual title as a freshman, and an absolutely tireless work habit -- one that perhaps even borders on maniacal -- propelled her to a status as the best prep girls golfer in the Muncie area. She won the sectional again as a sophomore and junior, and capped her career with a fourth straight title last weekend by shooting 2-over par 74 to advance to the Lapel Regional on Sept. 26 at Edgewood Country Club in Anderson.
Taking a spur-of-the-moment serious interest in golf might have seemed to be an impulse decision, but Teddi says she was worried about making friends in high school and finding something to do outside of class. Since Doug had all the resources (a golf practice center and years of experience teaching the game) for an aspiring golfer to capitalize on, she opted for the advantage right in front of her.
“I have a character trait where I have to be doing something and working hard toward a goal,” Teddi said. “I don’t like going home after school and doing homework or hanging with friends or doing nothing. I have to be grinding toward a goal, and I needed a new goal.”
She’s an expert on grinding toward a goal. Doug says he’s never had a younger player work harder on the game than Teddi does.
“I have to reel her back in because it’s 8 or 10 hours a day,” he said. “I’ve never seen anybody go from nothing to all in, and then improve as quick as she has. It’s all really sweat and tears. She plays every day. She’s just stubborn. She refuses to quit competing, and she just hates to lose.”
Teddi’s work ethic is always front and center. Her typical approach on non-school days is to hit balls on the range for 4 hours starting at 8 a.m., followed by short-game work for a couple of hours, then play 18 holes of golf, then an hour on the practice green, and finally another 18-hole round before darkness descends.
“If I’m not working hard all day, I feel like I’m wasting my time,” Teddi said.
Last Friday, the day before the sectional, Central had no school because of a teacher in-service day. Teddi took advantage by practicing from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at The Players Club, then went to MD’s, then played golf at Crestview Golf Club until dark.
“If she didn’t have to go to school, that would be her every day,” Doug said.
Ah, going to school. Teddi attacks her work in the classroom as intensely as her determination on the golf course. She’s a 4.0 student who is on a pace to become Central’s valedictorian.
“I feel like I’ve always had to work hard for everything in golf, and in school I have a natural talent,” she said. “I’m really good at science and math. I take hard classes because I like to challenge myself.”
She wants to major in engineering in college and her academic prowess has resulted in interest from MIT, Ivy League schools and other notable institutions of higher learning. Carnegie Mellon University, a private research school in Pittsburgh, is talking with Teddi about a possible opportunity with its women’s golf team.
Central coach Larry Alexander calls Teddi the well-rounded athlete every coach would want to be have
“She has given up a lot to get to where she is in golf,” Alexander said. “When you put in as many hours as she does every week for 52 weeks a year, there’s just no time for anything else. And there’s homework involved in that when you take the courses she’s had.
“She’s that dedicated … a special young lady that I’m lucky enough to be around.”
Her father, Doug, calls Teddi the toughest golf student he’s ever instructed because of their father-daughter relationship. There have been arguments, for sure, but she fully trusts what dad has to say.
“Sometimes I feel like there’s a lot of pressure, but having him there to practice and work with my swing, it’s great,” Teddi said. “I’m glad he’s my dad because he can commit so much more time to it.”
One of the few goals left for Teddi to accomplish in her high school career is coming up Saturday at the regional. She’s never advanced to the state tournament, and she can do that if the Bearcats go as a team or if she finishes in the top 5 among players whose teams fail to advance.
She missed individual advancement by just 3 strokes last year and 2 strokes in 2018. Nobody is counting her out this year.
“She just doesn’t give in,” Alexander said.