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Duke women's golf 2021 season preview

Senior Jaravee Boonchant looks to cement her legacy as one of the best golfers in Blue Devil history.
Senior Jaravee Boonchant looks to cement her legacy as one of the best golfers in Blue Devil history.

Overview

There’s a lot for the Duke women’s golf team to be concerned about. While the Blue Devils technically enter this season as reigning national champions, much of their title-winning squad from 2019 is gone. Duke did not play at all during the fall due to COVID-19 concerns. The team’s lone senior, Jaravee Boonchant, stayed in her native Thailand during the entire fall semester.

However, with seven-time national champion head coach Dan Brooks at the helm, there is plenty of reason for optimism as well. Boonchant, the No. 14 individual golfer in the country during the 2019-20 season, returns to Durham this spring. Junior Gina Kim boasts title-winning experience. An energetic freshman tandem of Phoebe Brinker and Anne Chen could provide a spark late in the season. It will take a rare mixture of luck and grit for the Blue Devils to defend their national title, but don’t count them out. -Glen Morgenstern

New golfer(s) to watch: Phoebe Brinker, Anne Chen

You can’t have Jordan without Pippen. You can’t have Xavi without Iniesta. In a similar vein, choosing between freshmen Phoebe Brinker and Anne Chen is near impossible. The two new members to the roster equally share the responsibility of filling the shoes of departed stars like Virginia Elena Carta and Ana Belac in defending the team’s 2019 national title. 

Brinker and Chen will certainly feel the pressure to continue the program’s legacy both this season and beyond. With stellar golf resumes dating back to their high school careers, however, we can expect these two dynamic freshmen to play like veterans early on. -Eric Gim

Returning golfer to watch: Jaravee Boonchant

Third-best career stroke average in Duke history. Six career eagles. Three-time All-American. Boonchant needs no introductions when it comes to making headlines. Before last season was cut short by COVID-19, Boonchant not only raked in personal accolades such as finishing No. 14 in the Golfweek individual rankings, but also turned in a season-best third-place finish at the Tar Heel Invitational. As the sole senior on this season’s roster, Boonchant’s 2019 NCAA Championship experience and veteran leadership will be essential for a young team expected to uphold an impressive Blue Devil reputation. -Gim

Most anticipated matchup: Cavalier Match Play, April 6-7

While the Blue Devils will only take part in five events before the ACC Championship, the Cavalier Match Play will certainly give a good indication of how competitive Duke will be once the calendar creeps toward May. The opportunity to measure their skills against teams such as No. 5 Virginia and No. 6 Wake Forest has to be something the Blue Devils will embrace, while the progress of Brinker and Chen and the abilities of Boonchant and Kim as match-play standouts will be put to the test. -Max Rego

Best-case scenario

The Blue Devils cruise through regional qualifying to the NCAA Championship, with the talents of Boonchant, Kim and Erica Shepherd on full display. Once the battle for the national crown begins in Scottsdale, Ariz., Megan Furtney and either Brinker or Chen—whichever freshman is in form to lock down the fifth spot—rise to the occasion and Duke secures a top-four seed in the match-play portion. When it comes to match-play, anything can happen, so if the putts drop over the final two days at Grayhawk Golf Club, the Blue Devils could find themselves as national champions for the eighth time in program history. -Rego

Worst-case scenario

Time away from the golf course takes its toll on the relatively inexperienced Blue Devils, and they fall behind the rest of the pack quickly, unable to put the pieces together in time for a postseason run. Duke makes the NCAA Championship, but without veteran players like Elena Carta and Belac, the team fails to advance past the third round. -Morgenstern

Prediction

Morgenstern: 1st in the ACC, NCAA Championship match-play semifinalists 

Rego: 2nd in the ACC, NCAA Championship match-play quarterfinalists 

Gim: 1st in the ACC, NCAA Championship match-play finalists 


Editor's note: This is a part of The Chronicle's series of previews for Duke's spring sports, the rest of which can be found here.


Max Rego

Max Rego is a Trinity junior and sports managing editor for The Chronicle's 117th volume.

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