FORT WAYNE – Rare is the instance when a person can pinpoint that one, particular moment when choice or fate or serendipity – or a concoction of all three – takes that individual by the hand and guides them down their lifes path. Its even more extraordinary to have two, which is the case with Kristi OBrien.
It was a Sunday, June 14, 2009, when then 19-year-old OBrien walked away from an accident on I-69 while returning to IUPUI, where she was to be a sophomore. Although her Toyota Celica rolled over several times, spraying shattered glass at OBrien, the golf clubs in the trunk of her car werent even scratched.
I remember everything while it happened, OBrien said. It was like slow motion. I was like, When am I going to get knocked out? When am I not going to remember this? When am I going to die?
It was a Monday, July 19, 2010, when OBrien was tied for first place in the final round of the Womens City Golf Tournament at Brookwood. Her second shot – an awkward one from beneath a pine tree – landed in tall, thick grass behind the green.
After a study of the predicament, OBriens caddy told her, I know youve been working on your short game a lot, so right now youve got to trust you can do the shot.
OBrien nodded. The ball came out clean, rolled 15 feet, and dropped in for a birdie.
From that moment, OBrien would later say that day, she relaxed. That led to a course-record 64 and a 10-shot win.
Puffed with confidence, she would win the Womens City the following year, then capture the Indiana amateur championship. That would lead to her receiving the Indiana Womens Golf Association Alice ONeal Dye Player of the Year Award.
Because she is ready for another challenge and another life, OBrien recently announced that she has turned professional. With the State Am title on her résumé to go along with pair of city championships, and owning the best career stroke average at IUPUI (80), the former Bishop Luers standout threw her newer clubs in a newer car and moved to the Tampa, Fla., area, where she competes in the Sun Coast Ladies Series in and around Orlando.
It was scary at first, but its exciting, OBrien said over the phone. Im embracing it, just trying to get comfortable out there again. Im just excited about starting something new – a new chapter after college. Im excited to see where it takes me.
It was a Monday, Feb. 4, when OBrien began her new chapter at the Orange Tree Country Club in Orlando, where she shot an 85 on the first day of her first event as a pro.
I was nervous the first day, she said. Then I had a 78 and a 71. It was a good learning experience.
She tied for 18th place in a field of 45.
Tom OBrien doesnt recall the exact day, but hell tell you that the first golf course he and his wife took Kristi on was the par 3 at Lakeside. The course was short, and so was Kristi, who had taken her first whacks on a driving range.
She just loved it, said Tom, who was his daughters coach at Luers. The very first one she hit, it went down the middle. She already had a good swing.
Kristi says her parents do what they can as far as financial help, but turning professional isnt cheap when it costs $485 for each entry fee into a Sun Coast event. Then there are living and travel expenses.
If I had a full season, and played almost every week, its about $37,000 to play, Kristi said.
She has no agent, no primary sponsor. Callaway helps with equipment. Loudmouth Golf provides some of her clothes.
The reality is shell be looking for financial help from nearly anyone who offers.
Its really hard for me to sit there and ask somebody for money, Kristi OBrien said. Ive had a couple people from Fort Wayne that have been very generous and given me some money just to help start me out. Thats been very sweet. Its been that type of stuff. This summer I need to write letters to more local businesses and some other people that I dont know but would like to meet and see if theyd like to back me up.
Although she doesnt have the reputation, IUPUI assistant coach Colby Huffman – a disciple of famed instructor Hank Haney – is sure that OBrien has the game to play on the LPGA tour.
I think she can get to the next level because her best is good enough to compete with the best in the world, Huffman said. Her distance is good and she has a great mind set.
She uses a lot of feel in her game and has avoided becoming too technical, which a lot of college golfers get into and search for some technical fix.
Shes been able to balance working on technique with being able to feel a shot, which is important. Her distance is good and shes a great putter. When you put all those things together, shes got what it takes, and its going to take all shes got.
And became her path was chosen long ago, shes willing to give it all she has.
I really do think I belong, OBrien said. I notice when Im out there, I hit my irons really well, and I just need to know that I belong out there; be mentally comfortable out there. After that, it should be good.