FRANKLIN, Tenn. – Call Lindy Duncan the Suzann Pettersen of the college golf circuit. The Duke junior is stoic, supremely talented and rarely cracks a smile until she’s walked off the course, often with a trophy in hand.
Duncan collected her latest victory, the third of her college career, at the Mason Rudolph Fall Preview, after defeating Alabama’s Jennifer Kirby on the first hole of a playoff. Duncan knocked her approach to inside a foot at the par-5 18th and tapped in for birdie. It capped the end of a week in which Duncan posted rounds of 75-69-68 for a 4-under 212 total at the Vanderbilt Legends Club’s North Course.
Duncan’s junior season follows a summer that saw her make the cut in the U.S. Women’s Open as an amateur and finish T-59. It was her second U.S. Women’s Open appearance, but easily the highlight of the year.
“The Open was by far the coolest thing,” she said. “I got to play with some good players, I learned a lot about where my game is in comparison to the pros. It’s hard to tell at a U.S. Open because it’s such a different course, but I got a lot of confidence because I felt like my ballstriking was up there with those girls.”
Duncan played a practice round with In Kyung Kim at The Broadmoor, and noted the difference in her game around the greens. Kim touched the hole all day, while Duncan would miss by a foot. It inspired her to devote more time to her putting over the summer, which seemed to pay off at the Legends Club.
A young Duke squad could learn from Duncan’s experience, and head coach Dan Brooks maintains that they do. Squealing teammates waited for her at the conclusion of the final two rounds, and met her at the 18th green with bear hugs to celebrate her individual title. Brooks calls her a leader by example, and Duncan doesn’t deny she’s benefitted from a perennially strong Blue Devil golf program, even if she had reservations about shipping off from her home in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., to Durham, N.C., to play for Brooks.
“I work really hard for Bs and Cs, which I’m very proud of,” Duncan said. “It’s been really hard going to Duke with the weather and the schoolwork. I just try to remind myself that it’s really good preparation for maybe the future and I would like to go pro.”
Duncan displays a rare style of play on the course. She seldom laughs or smiles, but instead demonstrates immense concentration and poise. She’ll walk off a yardage rather than pull a range finder.
“Anybody that does that, they’re thinking about the golf course and shape of the greens, and she’ll just do that as a natural matter of course,” Brooks explained.
Duncan explains that Brooks’ coaching style is often to keep a heavy eye on the No. 3, 4 and 5 players in the lineup. She jokes that she’s unsure Brooks ever saw her play a full 18 until traveling with her to last spring’s NCAA Championship, where she represented Duke as an individual and finished T-8. Then again, Duncan isn’t exactly the kind of player a coach needs to worry about.
“She’s all heart,” Brooks said of Duncan. “This girl really wants to be a great player and she will be a great player. She will be one of the ones that makes it out there.”
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Once in a lifetime: While much of the field at last week’s Mason Rudolph Fall Preview was keeping an eye on the Solheim Cup via television coverage (and Twitter updates), Jacqueline Hedwall was living it. The LSU senior spent the weekend on twin sister Caroline’s bag as Europe rolled to a two-point victory on the U.S. Even though it meant missing the biggest event of the fall season, Jacqueline knew the Solheim Cup was something she couldn’t turn down.
“She obviously had pretty good tournaments this summer so we were a pretty good pair out there,” Jacqueline said, referencing Caroline’s two wins and one runner-up with Jacqueline on the bag. “She wanted me out there and I think the captains wanted someone who knew the other caddies and the other players.”
Jacqueline didn’t have to be playing in the match for it to earn the distinction of “best week of my entire life.” Even a week later it was hard for her to describe the experience – one she said was full of emotion.
Caroline teamed with Sophie Gustafson to defeat Vicky Hurst and Brittany Lincicome, 5 and 4, in Friday’s four-ball. The pair also defeated Angela Stanford and Stacy Lewis, 6 and 5, in Saturday’s foursomes. Jacqueline called those the most memorable moments – the rest, she says, is just a blur.
“We had a lot of fun out there and there was a lot of team spirit,” she said, noting that the singles match Caroline halved with Ryann O’Toole made her “extremely nervous.”
After Jacqueline completes her final year at LSU, she hopes to attend LET Qualifying School and try her hand on the pro circuit. And if that doesn’t work out, she wouldn’t mind being a caddie full-time. The key to Jacqueline’s game is on the green.
“I’m a good reader but I just can’t hit the ball on the line,” she said.
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A look ahead…
What: Windy City Collegiate
When: Oct. 3-5
Where: Glenview (Ill.) Golf Club
Why: Keep an eye on UC Davis, a team that has a win and runner-up finish in two starts, as well as Pac-12 power Arizona. Oklahoma State, which won the Dale McNamara Invitational, and Tulsa, a team that nearly won the Golfweek Conference Challenge, also are in the field. Purdue enters the field after a last-place finish at the Mason Rudolph Fall Preview, which might spark a redemption performance.
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Five questions with New Mexico sophomore Sofia Hoglund, of Kokkola, Finland, who won the Branch Law Firm /Dick McGuire Invitational:
1.) You made a 35-foot putt for birdie at the 18th hole to win. Did you know you had to make it?
I kind of knew the situation before going to play the last few holes, however everyone had three holes left because it was a shotgun. I knew that other players who were playing well could have made birdies. I knew in a way I had to make some putts to have a chance to win. I was lucky, it was a downhill putt and I hit it a little hard, but for some reason the hole came in the way. It was the only birdie I made the whole day.
2.) Five previous Lobos have won this tournament. How does it feel to add your name to the list?
It feels really good. I can’t explain how happy I am and how I guess all the hard work you have done, it pays off at some point. I never could imagine winning a tournament. I just went to play my own game and have fun and the win just came with it.
3.) What do you know as a sophomore that you wish you knew as a freshman?
I guess just to get used to how the school works and all the practice things. It was a lot of pressure in the beginning to do well in school and just being organized, I guess. I tried to be really organized, however it still was hard to get everything done and do well both in school and at the golf course. … I stressed a lot about doing well in school, but I learned it doesn’t really help too much to stress about it.
4.) You maintained a 4.01 GPA last year. What’s your best study tip?
I’m from Europe so I’m used to a little bit different school system. Over here, the teachers appreciate the hard work and you can get an A in your class if you work hard. I think I showed that with working hard, I got my As in classes because home, for example in English, I was not ever very good in English so I never got any As in the class. Here it’s possible with hard work.
5.) How different is golf in the U.S. than it was in Finland, where you grew up?
Here, it’s a big sport and a lot of people know about it and follow scores and they know players. At home it’s like a summer sport that people play for fun, or a lot of athletes that play winter sports play golf in the summer. We know all the Finnish golfers. Here, you know your team and some other players you play with, but never close you will know everyone. It’s much bigger here, and here there’s more opportunities than at home.