“Usually, I don’t have any confidence in myself.”

That was part of Duke freshman Jaravee Boonchant’s response when asked whether she had high expectations heading into the season. Given those words, one might assume she has struggled so far for the Blue Devils.

That couldn’t be farther from the truth.

Boonchant set Duke’s all-time record for the lowest fall scoring average by a freshman, needing just 70.3 strokes per round—a big deal, especially considering that many of history’s best college golfers made their careers in Durham. 

Head coach Dan Brooks said her lack of confidence—seemingly odd given her level of achievement as a junior golfer—may actually be a contributor to her collegiate success. Brooks compared Boonchant’s disposition to that of 2004 graduate Virada Nirapathpongporn, one of the most successful Blue Devils ever and the 2003 U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship winner, who frequently voiced similar self-doubt.

“I don’t think that’s as unusual as a lot of people think,” Brooks said. “Some athletes are having to prove to themselves every day. You think that they’d get the idea after a while, but they have to prove to themselves every day that they are really good and that they spend their whole careers day-by-day proving to themselves that they’ve got it.”

Born and raised in Bangkok, Boonchant started playing golf at a young age to spend more time with her father, a recreational golfer whom she calls her biggest role model. Fast forward to her high school years, and she had earned an offer to join Duke. Accepting that offer was a no-brainer for the freshman, who said she had always dreamed of being a Blue Devil.

Along with excitement, her arrival in Durham has brought new opportunities and challenges. Time management between rigorous academics—Boonchant plans to study statistics and computer science—and high-pressure athletics has been hard to tackle, Boonchant said, while playing on a team for the first time ever brings heightened motivation to play for something bigger than herself.

“When I was playing for myself in junior golf, I usually gave up halfway [through] when I started playing bad,” Boonchant said. “When I have a team, I know that I [can’t] give up, because I don’t know how other people are going to do and I don’t want to let the team down.”

That accountability Boonchant feels toward her teammates has certainly brought out quality golf, as she has quickly established herself as a fixture in the Duke lineup with four top-15 finishes in five events. During her inaugural round for the Blue Devils in September’s Jim West Challenge, the freshman made her presence known with a score of 66, tying the Duke record for the lowest 18-hole score in an opening collegiate round. 

Two more days of solid golf allowed Boonchant to tie for sixth place and card a 205—the third-lowest tournament score ever by a Blue Devil freshman. Boonchant’s worst finish this season? A tie for 34th in the first event of the spring that still left her in the top half of all competitors.

Brooks originally learned about Boonchant after she was recommended to him by Tracy Reiser—the assistant director of IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., where Boonchant went to high school—who spoke highly of her student’s personality and character. After that, he said, he quickly realized she checked all the boxes of what he looks for when recruiting.

“When I hear that [from Reiser], I’m interested in those kinds of people, so that was the first thing, and then I watched her down in South Florida and was very impressed at just her demeanor on the golf course,” Brooks said. “All those things that you look for were there. She kind of hit every point: a good person, very talented, hard worker, beautiful golf swing and a tenacious competitor.”

Although Boonchant stepped up in the fall to help her team win three out of four events, she emphasized that there is still plenty of room for her and her teammates to improve as they work toward the NCAA championship in May. In Duke’s spring opener two weeks ago, the team struggled against an elite field on a difficult course and ultimately finished in a disappointing eighth place, an outcome that Boonchant said provided an experience the team can draw upon in preparing for the postseason.

In looking to improve, Boonchant said her short game could use some work, but that her mental approach to the game—the need to focus on each shot individually rather than worrying about what’s ahead—is her biggest key to steady development.

“I used to think about the score too much and that kind of stressed me out [on] the golf course, so I need to focus more on doing what I’m doing right now,” Boonchant said. “I don’t want to let the team down. I just want to be someone who can help the team to win nationals.”