Duke women's golf 2024 season preview

Phoebe Brinker pictured at the 2023 Darius Rucker Intercollegiate, where she finished eighth.
Phoebe Brinker pictured at the 2023 Darius Rucker Intercollegiate, where she finished eighth.

Overview

The Blue Devils are entering 2024 energized and prepared for the invitationals and ACC play to come. After barely missing the cut to advance and finishing 18th in the NCAA Women’s Golf Championship, Duke put in the work over the fall. 

“I think everybody's looking pretty solid. You never know until you're actually in the event, but [from] everything I've seen and what we've seen in the qualifiers, I certainly know that we have a motivated team and that's very exciting, to see everybody getting after it like they have been,” said head coach Dan Brooks.

The Blue Devils’ journey began Saturday at the Moon Golf Invitational, and perhaps representative of what he hopes from future showings, Brooks believes his team will both show spirit and remain collected on the course — essential if Duke plans to triumph in matchups at the end of the season.

“The important thing that I know is that they’ll fight like crazy, and they will do everything they can to remain composed,” Brooks said. 

The makeup of this Duke roster is fairly similar to last year’s, with some key returners and a couple exciting newcomers. However, the departure of a few notable veterans means that this season will be a somewhat transitional one, with its potential in flux.

But in its 50th season, the team is ready to pick back up where it left off Oct. 29, fighting for a place this spring alongside the likes of LSU, Stanford and reigning 2023 NCAA champion Wake Forest. 

New players to watch: Katie Li and Emma McMyler

Li is one of two new additions to the Blue Devils and the sole undergraduate golfer to join the program this year. Her drive and reputation as a top junior golfer makes the New Jersey native one to watch. Li is a three-time AJGA All-American designee and demonstrated her talent in the fall with a top-20 finish of 2-under at the Landfall Tradition in Wilmington, N.C. As she continues adjusting to the team and building up experience, Li shows promise of being a prominent figure within the 2024 Duke women’s golf experience. 

McMyler, joining the Blue Devils from Xavier, also excites Brooks. The three-time Big East Golfer of the Year tied for fourth at the Windy City Collegiate Classic and shot 3-under at the Landfall Tradition this fall while studying in the Fuqua School of Business.

“Both [Li and McMyler] have done a fantastic job [in the fall]... they’ve both just gotten after it,” Brooks said. 

Returning player to watch: Phoebe Brinker

It’s Brinker’s time to shine. After gaining experience under past leaders like Erica Shepherd and Megan Furtney, the Delaware native, now a senior, assumes her role supporting the team as a key figure. In the fall, Brinker shot -4 in Wilmington, and she has demonstrated her talent previously as the 2022 ACC individual champion. 

“I think everyone’s looking pretty solid [entering the spring], but you never know until you’re actually in the event,” Brooks said.

With the spring still ahead, she and other returning players must showcase the rewards of past training and remain consistent in order to successfully lead this team through the coming months.

Most anticipated matchup: Darius Rucker Intercollegiate, March 4-6

Like last year, the Darius Rucker Intercollegiate will offer the greatest opportunity for Duke to test its depth and talent against a variety of prominent teams like Wake Forest, LSU, South Carolina and Texas. The Blue Devils’ performance in Hilton Head, S.C., could offer some indication of how the team will fare just a month or two later at the ACC Championship and beyond. 

However, Brooks also cautioned against setting one competition apart from the rest. By treating each event consistently, he said, Duke can routinely perform without elevating any showings over others. 

“One thing I think they all need to continue to do is have their competitive way of playing their best, and you do that in every event and every hole you play, [try] to be as consistent [mentally as you possibly can],” Brooks said. 

Best-case scenario 

As Brooks prescribed, the Blue Devils show promise if they can continue to consistently grow. The hole left by previous seniors Shepherd and Furtney gets filled by new seniors Brinker and Anne Chen as each steps up across play. McMyler takes off as her record-setting talent at Xavier further translates to the high-level competition of Duke’s rivals. Li grows steadily, and sophomore Andie Smith and junior Rylie Heflin also slot themselves into the Blue Devils’ lineup as key contributors. 

Setting the team’s sights on Wake Forest may prove challenging, but it isn’t entirely unfeasible. Two of the five Demon Deacons who beat Southern California in match play at last year’s NCAA Championship have since left. Clemson could fail to replicate the accomplishments of last year’s team — having just won the first ACC Championship in program history — and Florida State may struggle to click with its newest additions following the loss of previous senior Amelia Williamson. All that put together, and the Blue Devils make significant strides back toward the conference’s, and the country’s, upper echelon.

Worst-case scenario 

It’s possible that Duke loses its rhythm this spring with the absence of Shepherd and Furtney, and only one shortcoming erases the Blue Devils of any consistency they built over the fall. To match up to and win against the rest of the field requires sustained excellence that any team would consider a tall order, especially in an ACC as stacked as this one.

Duke’s competition appears as strong this year as any other, with Wake Forest energized after its recent championship win and Clemson hungry for another. Florida State’s Charlotte Heath and Mirabel Ting, along with Virginia’s Amanda Sambach could cause trouble for the Blue Devils or even bar the team from a top-four ACC finish if all goes wrong. 

Prediction

Second in ACC, 16th at NCAA Championship 

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