Duke will enter this season ranked No. 9 in the Country by Golf Digest. But perhaps an e-mail sent recently to head coach Rod Myers by a former player will prove to be even more telling about his team's potential for success this season.
"Coach, you always said you could tell how good of a team you were going to have by how many guys qualified for the [U.S.] Amateur," the e-mail read.
Now, with four of his players making it through sectional qualifying and into the national field last week at Hazeltine National Golf Club, Myers has found a reason to be optimistic about this season despite both his team's disappointing finish last year and the loss of his best player, 2005 All-American Ryan Blaum, to graduation.
Senior Jake Grodzinsky, juniors Michael Quagliano and Michael Schachner, and sophomore Andrew Giuliani all advanced through their respective sectional tournaments to play in the first round of national competition-the most Duke players to qualify for the Amateur since 1992.
"This shows we've got guys who are playing awfully well in their regions of the country. If they can just keep that mentality then it should be a really positive thing for our team," Myers said.
Schachner, who fired a 4-over-par 147 in the first two days of stroke play to finish in a tie for 55th place, was the only Blue Devil who shot well enough to compete in match play.
The junior from Libertyville, Ill. just missed advancing past the opening round of the Amateur's match play, as he was unable to hold on to the 1-up lead he took into the 17th hole after consecutive birdies on Nos. 14 and 15.
Yet, if Schachner continues to play as solidly as he has this summer-making the field the Western Open by holing out on the 17th of his qualifying round and finishing tied for 17th at the Western Amateur-he could begin the process of filling the giant spikes left behind by Blaum.
"In all the years I've been here, we haven't had a player with Ryan's success," Myers said. "It's going to be pretty difficult for any single person to step in and take that spot, but we'd like to think that we could do it with a few and it starts with Michael [Schachner]."
Myers noted that in the past, Schachner has tended to play better in the summer than in season because during the school year he has had difficulty balancing his work on the course with work off of it. But the coach thinks the junior's experience and maturity will help him so "his golf at school will mimic the golf he plays in the summer."
In addition to returning seasoned veterans like Schachner, Quagliano and Grodzinsky, Myers said he believes that this year's incoming freshman class could have an immediate impact on the links.
"We felt that the seniors who just graduated were an outstanding freshman class when they came in, and this group is better than that group-at least at this stage in the game," Myers said. "I think we're going to have more depth in our program than we've had before."
Freshmen Jeff Edelman, Brian Kim and Adam Long are expected to compete seriously for the fourth and fifth spots on the team and push the other guys on the roster to be even better, Myers said.
As for the national recognition and Golf Digest rankings, Myers hopes his players don't look too much into them and that they continue to work to sharpen their games.
"I really do think we have all the material here for a top-10 team and we'd like to feel that we can make a real run for the national championship."
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