Sometimes when we watch athletes score an impossible goal or play a perfect round, we forget that their ability is not innate. We forget that the moment that made us hold our breath and cheer came from hours of practice, sacrifice and resilience.

Talking to Teresa Conroy, I got the impression that from the outside, her life could look almost easy. Here’s a girl who started competing for the UNF Women’s Golf team her freshman year right after she graduated as valedictorian from her high school. She’s majoring in statistics and talks about math with an enthusiasm normally reserved for celebrities. On the surface, it seems like she casually strolled into life and was assigned all the talent.

However, if you thought that, you wouldn’t be doing justice to Conroy or her accomplishments. While her story isn’t one of overcoming obstacles at all costs, it is a story of inner perseverance, determination and belief.

The youngest of five kids, Conroy’s older sisters played tennis, and so Conroy pursued a sport of her own. When her dad bought her a pink golf set, she would use it every now and then. However, around the time she was 13, she began to take it more seriously. She said, “I really started to like golf in eighth grade, and I played a lot from eighth grade on.” And by a lot she means every day — maybe taking Sundays off.

Her commitment to playing paid off as she began winning tournaments and playing on her high school team. As her skills improved, she began thinking about what could be next.

While the UNF Women’s Golf Team is still a young program, just finishing its fifth year, the team has made it to regionals twice this past year with Conroy. Conroy said she knew she wanted to play for the Ospreys after meeting head coach Joanne Berglund.

“She was experienced and successful,” Conroy said. “I loved her positive attitude on the course and with the team.”

With a spot on the team, Conroy could have shown up to school ready to party and become the stereotypical freshman. Instead, she immediately started preparing for the season ahead.

“Freshman year coming in, I wanted to compete. So last summer, I played all the time to get ready because I wanted to make the lineup,” she said. “I had good tournaments, and I came in and I started in the top five.”

For college golf, starting in the top five meant Conroy was playing in tournaments with seasoned college athletes. It also meant that mentally, she was taking on the challenge of joining a new team, playing with established senior athletes, and going through the transition from high school student to college freshman.

“I wonder what students who are not student athletes do with their time,” Conroy joked.

Joking aside, for all her efforts on the golf course, she doesn’t lose sight of why she’s there. “I am a student first and an athlete second,” she said of her role at UNF.

Conroy says that being an athlete provides challenges when you’re in school but that she is able to navigate those challenges by being prepared and making a plan. She also says that UNF helps student athletes succeed by having small classes that allow her to know and work with her professors directly, especially when she is missing classes for tournaments.   

“It can be a challenge,” Conroy said of being a student athlete. “But you have to have a plan and be motivated to keep up.”

As Conroy enters into her sophomore year, she said there isn’t a lot she will change. She’s moving off campus and hopes to be a little more involved in “college life” this year. Already, she has been helping other incoming athletes prepare for the road ahead. One of the incoming freshman golfers is texting her for advice, just like she did with a senior the year before.

There’s no doubt that Conroy’s poised for success. Her dedication to practice and preparation have yet to fail her. When I asked what her future holds, she is already trying to decide if she wants to get a masters in statistics or business. She’d love to play at the professional level, but isn’t sure if she will be able to. If the past is any indication of the future, it might just take a little more preparation.