Champs begin quest for 3-peat

As the Blue Devils prepare for their 2006-2007 season, they look to do something no Duke team has done before--three-peat.

Already tabbed as the No. 1 team in the country by Golf World and Golf Digest, Duke will play for its third consecutive national championship this year.

The team will begin its championship drive this weekend in Nashville, Tenn. at the Mason Rudolph Championship--a tournament then--freshman Amanda Blumenherst won last year.

"I feel like we're ranked fairly and that we should be where we are," Blumenherst said. "Definitely we have a great team this year, so I think we're going to do amazing things."

The Blue Devils return four of last season's five starters, including Blumenherst, the reigning National Player of the Year. Although Duke lost one of its top players to graduation--2004 National Player of the Year Liz Janangelo-sophomore Jennie Lee and senior Anna Grzebien will bring needed experience to the team's title run.

Lee finished second in last year's NCAA Championship, and Grzebien was the 2005 NCAA individual champion.

"We've got so much talent on this team," head coach Dan Brooks said. "Everybody on this team is going to be working hard and have great attitudes. I have very high expectations for them."

Along with the four upperclassmen, Brooks added three freshmen--Rebecca Kim, Yo Young Lee, and Alison Whitaker--to the mix. These additions give the Blue Devils seven players on their roster-two more than either of the last two seasons.

With only five players able to compete in most tournaments, a larger roster offers this year's team more flexibility and intra-squad competition relative to years past. Brooks said he will decide which players tee off on a tournament-by-tournament basis by conducting team qualifiers in the week prior to competition.

This year's crop of freshmen is sure to compete for the limited spots. Kim was three times the Oregon 4A Girls State Individual Champion. Lee recorded a nine-hole stroke average of 36.0 as a senior at Phillips High School in Orlando, Fla. And Whitaker, who hails from Melbourne, Australia, lost in the semifinals of last summer's U.S. Women's Amateur, defeating Blumenherst in the round of 32.

"They're a positive group and a hard-working group--these three," Brooks said. "They're a mature group for a group of freshmen coming in. It's just great. It's a class that I'm very excited about."

Kim acknowledged that it was overwhelming at first joining the top program in the country, but she said that she has since found her comfort zone with the team.

"It almost felt like a dream when I first came here," she said. "I was like, 'Wow I've seen them on TV.' But I can actually talk to them now, so it's pretty cool."

Duke's upperclassmen each return to campus after impressive summer performances. Blumenherst finished tied for 10th at the U.S. Women's Open in July and Jennie Lee lasted until the quarterfinals of the U.S. Women's Amateur. Both women helped the U.S. to victory in the Curtis Cup.

"This year I'll have that extra little confidence boost on the first tee," Blumenherst said. "I just remember last year I was so nervous."

Grzebien finished her summer by winning the Massachusetts Women's Open Championship.


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