Young Duke has eye on prize

Lindy Duncan, Duke’s top performer last year with four top-five finishes, will lead the Blue Devils this fall.
Lindy Duncan, Duke’s top performer last year with four top-five finishes, will lead the Blue Devils this fall.

Duke looks to improve upon a successful, but not entirely fulfilling, 2010 season that saw it win two tournaments, finish third in the ACC championship and climb as high as No. 3 in the national rankings.

But a subpar final weekend left the Blue Devils short of their fourth national championship. An eighth place finish left head coach Dan Brooks disappointed, although at this point in the season, he’s not focused on the team’s results just yet.

“It’s very process-involved,” Brooks said. “We have a lot of talent. We’re a team that expects to win, but my expectations have to do with process, not outcomes.”

This year’s team is even younger than in past years with three sophomores and two freshmen. Brooks, however, emphasized that age is not an issue.

“You don’t play against bigger or faster people when you get to college,” Brooks said. “You’re still playing the golf course. You play the golf course as a junior and you play the golf course in college. In that respect, they all know how to do it. They’ve played in big junior tournaments.”

While Duke is composed almost entirely of underclassmen, it is not lacking in senior leadership. Brooks said Kim Donovan has shown growth as the head of the team.

“Kim has really grown since she’s been on this team,” Brooks said. “So far she’s done an excellent job of leading and I don’t expect that to change at all. It started last year and it’s continued on into this year.”

Along with Donovan, sophomore Lindy Duncan will play an important part for the Blue Devils. Duncan was Duke’s top player last year, finishing in the top five four times and the top 20 ten times.

While Brooks has faith in Donovan and Duncan, he must deal with the loss of key contributor Alison Whitaker. Whitaker was a top performer for Brooks’s squad last year, competing in all 12 tournaments and finishing the year with the second lowest scoring average on the team.

“Alison was a verbal leader,” Brooks said. “She was a positive force [on the team].”

Despite the loss of his leader, Brooks is excited that this year’s team is full of diligent players who are willing to put in the time and effort in to improve their game.

“This core of people that I have on the team right now are workers,” Brooks said. “That’s the edge we have this year. We’ve got a lot of talent, but we’re [also] a really hard working group.”

Duke plays four tournaments in the fall, but the team it has now may be completely different from the one which competes in 2011’s national championship the following May. Brooks will count on his young squad to mature and develop into an elite team capable of competing for a national title.

“I always have an eye on the end of the season,” Brooks said. “It’s not a lot of hoping and praying that we play great at the end. It’s a lot of honing skills and, if we’re doing our job, we’re going to be the best team we can be at the end of the season.”


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