TIFTON — Bryce Marta was all set to attend Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College.
He enrolled and he attended a week of classes, but now he has other plans, thanks to a classmate and friend who got the ball rolling for him.
In Marta’s case, the ball is literal. He’s earned a bowling scholarship to Life University and he’ll start next quarter on Oct. 5. Collegiate bowling begins in the fall.
“I’m very excited,” said Marta, who graduated from Tift County High earlier this year. Neither Bryce nor his father, Joey, knew much about collegiate bowling scholarships until recently, but because of Gerald Coney, now they do.
Coney won second place in the Class 7A wrestling tournament earlier this year, the final chapter of an outstanding high school career. That excellence earned him a scholarship at Life and turned into even more than anyone could have imagined.
“[Coney] went this summer to Life and started talking to some of the coaches up there,” said Joey Marta, Bryce’s father. Coney noted the bowling team and began telling them about Bryce. That intrigued Life’s Director of Athletics, Jayme Pendergrast, and she got in contact with the Martas.
From there, the sides started talking. “Bryce talked to her and told her what all he had done, as far as bowling,” said Joey. Pendergrast told them she was interested, but wanted to wait until the program hired its new coach. Once that was accomplished, Bryce sent in video of him bowling.
Life extended Bryce Marta the offer of a partial scholarship. He signed with the program Monday, Aug. 17. A signing ceremony was held at Tift County Lanes Aug. 19.
Bryce Marta said he began bowling in elementary school and has been participating in adult leagues since his early teens. He’s extremely grateful for Coney for his part in this opportunity
Bryce has not had a chance to see Life’s campus yet. “I’ve seen pictures,” he said. “They look amazing.” His intended major is Exercise Science.
Life University’s bowling team belongs to the NAIA’s Mid-South Conference, whose geography ranges from Georgia all the way to West Virginia and Ohio. Many of the tournaments are multiple-day events. Last year, the season started in September, with national championships scheduled for March.
Bryce Marta is probably the first Tift County bowler to earn a scholarship. He may not be the last. Bryce said many of his friends bowl. Perhaps more opportunities will follow.