‘Oh my gosh, this is what I’ve been missing for two years’

Jeremy Juhasz

Sarah Bradley returns to golf

Junior Sarah Bradley has come back from a car accident in her native New Zealand to play for the Kent State women’s golf team. “I’m really lucky to be here,” says Bradley, who transferred from Oklahoma State to play at Kent State. Tessa Bargainnier | Dai

Credit: DKS Editors

Sarah Bradley fell asleep in the passenger seat of her father’s vehicle nearly two years ago. She doesn’t remember waking up.

And now she finds herself enrolled in a new school and reawakening a promising golf career.

The New Zealand native golfed in the Big 12 conference at Oklahoma State. As a freshman in 2007, she tied for fourth in the Big 12 Championship, a personal best. She later finished 15th in the NCAA West Regional qualifier. A career on the rise.

But that all changed on Jan. 5, 2008.

Bradley remembers saying good-bye to her friends at a beach. On the ride home, her father was driving (left side of the road in New Zealand). Her father lost consciousness for a moment – a blackout, Bradley said.

When he regained consciousness, the car was veering off the left side of the road, and Bradley’s father over corrected. The vehicle swerved 90 degrees into oncoming traffic in a 110 km/hr zone, approximately 68 mph.

Bradley stretched her hands and formed a bent T, demonstrating the side-impact.

“They hit my car right here,” she said. “I ended up spending eight months at home in New Zealand, recovering.”

The accident was severe. Bradley lost her short-term memory for three months after the incident. She only suffered a dislocated shoulder, but because of her memory loss, she still cannot recall the accident.

Her parents had to explain it to her after.

“I’m really lucky to be here,” she said. “I’ve had people stop me in the street, like firefighters, really surprised I’m still here.”

During her recovery, Bradley kept a diary so she could look back at the three months of her life that were “a blur.”

When it came time to return to Oklahoma State, Bradley had a change of heart and decided to transfer.

At Oklahoma State, athletes are expected to perform week in and week out, Bradley said. She admitted it felt like a business. Bradley had high expectations for herself, and she wasn’t ready to produce the results Oklahoma State demanded, so she looked elsewhere to restart her career.

One of Bradley’s coaches at Oklahoma State, Donnie Darr, set Bradley in a new direction. Darr, a Kent State alumnus, suggested Kent State as a possibility because of the coach, Mike Morrow, and his success – 10 MAC championships in 10 seasons.

“She’s the best player I’ve ever been around,” Darr said. “(She’s) the most enjoyable person I’ve been around.”

Because of Morrow, the transition was seamless.

“He trusted that I would get back,” Bradley said. “That’s all I needed was someone to trust my ability, and he has. I think it will pay off for him.”

Morrow said it was an easy decision to bring Bradley aboard.

“I recruited her without having seen a golf shot,” Morrow said. “There was no doubt in my mind she was going to make a comeback.”

With Morrow’s support, Bradley joined the women’s golf team last January on a medical redshirt, guaranteeing her two more seasons of eligibility.

Her biggest hurdle, though, was retraining her mind.

Deborah Keith, a Kent State learning specialist employed by the athletic department, works with athletes looking to improve academically.

Bradley credited Keith for teaching her how to be a successful student-athlete.

“I would see her three times a week,” Bradley said. “I was still having problems with my memory. Deb was an amazing, amazing part of my transition here.”

Keith said she provided Bradley an organizational plan, a time management plan and a study plan for the entire Spring 2009 semester.

“I provided a space for her to open up and to begin to analyze what the transition was in a positive way,” Keith said. “I think I just held up a mirror to her (and said) ‘This is who you are. This is not what I’m giving you.'”

The Hooters Collegiate Match Play Championship, Sept. 6-8, was the first collegiate event where Bradley wore the blue and gold. Two years ago, the same tournament was Bradley’s last competition.

“I was so nervous,” Bradley said. “I remember standing on the first tee going, ‘Oh my gosh, this is what I’ve been missing for two years.'”

Contact sports correspondent Jeremy Juhasz at [email protected].