Duke is led by two underclassmen in terms of scoring average, but senior Laetitia Beck is not worried about a lack of experience as the team looks toward the NCAA tournament.
“I can’t teach them anything, because we’ve all experienced really big tournaments, especially Celine (Boutier); she’s played the British Open,” Beck said. “That’s huge. So even the NCAAs, that is a big event in the states, compared to what she has been through I don’t think is stressful. So I don’t think she is going to have any trouble with the pressure of the NCAAs.”
Boutier, a sophomore, and freshman Yu Liu, along with Beck, have led the charge for the Blue Devils this year. Boutier has won twice this season, and Liu has triumphed once, as Duke has reached the No. 3 spot in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings.
The team has finished in a share of first or second in its past six tournaments, while playing some of the nation’s top teams. Boutier led the team with a medalist finish at the Ping/ASU Invitational last week, winning by one stroke over Arizona State’s Noemi Jimenez.
But Boutier’s path in college has not always been easy. She was born in Montrouge, France, and experienced the United States only on trips to junior and amateur tournaments.
Boutier moved to the states as a freshman and had to make some quick adjustments.
“My first semester was really hard because I had to get adjusted to the culture, and, in college life, you have to be really organized and independent. I really wasn’t,” Boutier said. “It was really hard, but now it’s better.”
That transition included adjusting to a different style of play in the states.
“Compared to Europe, the courses are much longer, and they’re a little wider too, so it’s different,” Boutier said. “But, I have to say, I really struggled with my distance when I got here. In Europe, I never had to hit it long or never I had the feeling that I had to hit long and hard. But, here, it’s really different and difficult.”
She went on to win Atlantic Coast Conference Rookie of the Year and All-ACC honors. But Boutier did not quite play to her standards.
“My first year, I was really frustrated because I could not play as well as I wanted,” Boutier said. “I managed to regain my confidence toward the end. During the summer, I really worked on my distance and ballstriking. Now, I have less long shots into greens.”
Boutier tied for fourth at the NCAA Championships last year. She qualified for the Women’s British Open in the summer and made the cut.
“I really wanted to make the cut. I wasn’t really feeling nervous because I just wanted to enjoy the experience and compare my game to the best players in the world,” Boutier said. “I didn’t feel like I had to perform. It was just a test to see if I had the level to play in the future.”
Boutier stacked up pretty well against some of the world’s best. She tied for 56th at St. Andrews.
Boutier, Liu, Beck and the rest of the Blue Devils will compete in the ACC Championship in Greensboro, N.C., on April 17-19.