Last year, Celine Boutier recorded three victories, six top-five finishes and seven top-ten placements en route to National Player of the Year honors.
She’s coming back for more.
After qualifying for the U.S. Women’s Open earlier this summer, the rising junior continued gaining international experience, leading France to victory in the European Ladies Amateur Team Championship, and most recently competing in the European Ladies Amateur Championship and U.S. Women’s Amateur.
Combined with her experience last summer making the cut at the RICOH Women’s British Open, the past few months have given the Frenchwoman a wide variety of lessons to draw upon in the coming season. That’s a scary thought for her opponents.
“I improve from every tournament I play because I do my best and learn from the good or bad that happens on and off the course,” Boutier said in an email. “The experiences I got helped me figure out what to work on and will definitely be helpful in the future. I think the best way to prepare yourself and be at your best for the team season is to compete as much as possible, without getting you too tired, which I did.”
Boutier advanced to the second round of the U.S. Women’s Amateur match play portion Aug. 7, falling on the second extra hole to Kristen Gillman. The reigning ACC Player of the Year was unable to win a second straight dramatic match after defeating Ashley Holder following an extra hole in the first round.
Players were forced to qualify for match play after 36 holes of stroke play at Nassau Country Club in Glen Cove, N.Y; the format is similar to the one the NCAA Championship recently adopted, another reason Boutier was able to take away so much from the week.
“The US Women's Amateur was a great experience,” she said. “Playing in such events is always great because you get the chance to play against the best players in the U.S. but also worldwide in a format that is not very common, and on amazing golf courses. It is the same format as the British Amateur so I am a little used to it, but match play is always interesting because anyone can win really.”
Boutier will look to share her experience this summer with the rest of her teammates when she returns to Duke, She will now be the unquestioned leader of the team after the reigning national champions lost seniors Laetitia Beck and Alejandra Cangrejo, as well as freshman Yu Liu, who turned professional.
Despite being the most experienced returning contributor from last year’s final lineup, Boutier still expects her teammates to also help the team dynamic and does not want any special treatment because of her age.
“I don't think that being a part of the upper class players should change anything about your role on the team,” she said. “I think that everyone no matter the class brings something to the team that is personal, which is great, but I don't see any roles really that upper class or lower class players should have.”
Touted freshmen Leona and Lisa Maguire—Irish twins who like Boutier competed at the European Ladies Amateur Championship—and Gurbani Singh will look to follow Boutier’s lead and define their own roles when they step on campus.
The trio will battle senior Irene Jung and junior Yi Xiao for the three spots in the lineup that will accompany Boutier and sophomore Sandy Choi, who is coming off an outstanding spring season.
With four fall tournaments scheduled in the coming months, the freshmen will have a chance to make an immediate impact, just as Boutier and Choi did in their first year.
Boutier knows the challenge that awaits her new teammates, and has some tips for them their new classmates.
“My main challenge was to keep up with the crazy schedule of a student-athlete, but also maintain my golf game and my academics on high levels,” she said. "Socially, as English is not my first language, I had trouble to open up and go to others, but the Maguire sisters won't have that problem! My main advice would just be to enjoy and live every minute of their first year in college as you only get the chance to be a freshman once!”
And although the junior who seems poised beyond her years emphasizes the importance of fine-tuning her game in the summer, she remains focused on consistency from shot-to-shot and round-to-round rather than specific aspects of her game.
A team-wide focus on consistency led to no finishes outside the top five and a national title last year. Who knows what could happen if this year's team emulates Boutier's even-keeled attitude.
“I don't think that my game really evolved or changed since last year's season," Boutier said. "My game has always been very consistent as a whole, but I just get the chance to practice and compete a little more during the summer.”