Lindy Duncan finds success on and off course

Freshman Lindy Duncan, who won the Liz Murphey Collegiate Classic this year, leads Duke in scoring average.
Freshman Lindy Duncan, who won the Liz Murphey Collegiate Classic this year, leads Duke in scoring average.

Golf legend Bobby Jones once said, “Competitive golf is played mainly on a five-inch course… the space between your ears.”

At the highest levels of golf, whether it be on the PGA Tour or in the ACC, nearly every player has the talent necessary to win—but few possess the mental toughness and composure that separates the great players from the rest. For freshman standout Lindy Duncan, identifying the safest route to the hole and memorizing the slope of a green is easy. It’s the off-the-course stresses that complicate things.

“It’s tough because we have really long days and we miss a lot of school,” Duncan said. “Off the course, academics are pretty tough. We have to stay on top of a lot of things.”

Being a golfer at Duke is different than playing any other sport—not only are practices longer, but tournaments, which usually span four or five days, are held in both the fall and spring seasons. Combined with a typical course load, golfers at Duke have to strike a fine balance between bunkers and books in order to be successful. Duncan has succeeded in handling the pressures off the greens without seeing her play suffer.

“I just didn’t want to feel like my game dropped a level,” Duncan said. “I didn’t want to let college get in the way of me staying at that level.”

Duncan has made the transition to college golf admirably thus far, and her mental sharpness has carried her to success both on and off the course. Her unmatched preparation and attention to detail has made her one of the most successful Blue Devil freshmen ever, with four top-five finishes—including a victory at the Liz Murphey Classic—and a team-best scoring average already to her name.

Teammate Alison Whitaker credits Duncan’s success to her unmatched focus and determination.

“She knows what she needs in order to play well, and she’s stayed really true to that—whether it be by working out, or in team training by focusing on certain things she needs to work at,” Whitaker said. “That’s not something that usually happens with freshmen—usually they get thrown into the team environment and they just do what the team does without focusing on what they need to do [individually] in order to play their best golf.”

College golfers, who are usually only familiar with playing the sport individually throughout their careers, must also learn to quickly embrace the team environment—a feat that can prove to be challenging. After a junior career where Duncan excelled—among other achievements, she made it to the semifinals of the 2006 U.S. Women’s Amateur—Duncan had to learn how to be an effective teammate, having only played team golf for a year in high school.

But having two fellow freshmen on the six-person team ensures Duncan is not alone in making the difficult transition.

“I knew Stacey [Kim] and Courtney [Ellenbogen] for a few years before I got here through junior golf, and it’s been interesting having three freshmen,” Duncan said. “We [didn’t] really know what we were doing, and had to learn how to be on a team because we’ve never really done that.”

Duncan and the rest of the No. 4 Blue Devils will travel to Ironwood Golf Course in Greenville, N.C., for the NCAA Regional Championship May 6, having already earned a No. 1 seed. Duke faces stiff competition, including No. 3 Auburn and ACC foe Wake Forest, but Duncan hopes to draw on the lessons she has learned from winning this spring to lead the Blue Devils to the top of the leaderboard.

“The biggest thing I learned about was patience. Your game can be really great, but if you don’t have patience and a belief in yourself, then no matter how well you are playing it’s still going to be tough to win,” Duncan said. “Winning involves a lot of things. You have to be playing well, you have to be patient, be tough, you can’t let little things bother you.”


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