Duke freshmen to take stage at Coca-Cola Duke

This year’s Duke men’s team is something of a mystery, though we’ll get a sneak peek at the Blue Devils’ heralded freshman class on Monday and Tuesday when the four first-year players tee it up at the Coca-Cola Duke Individual at Duke Golf Club.

The Blue Devils won’t play their first event as a team until the Bank of Tennessee at the Ridges on Oct. 16-18.

On paper, Duke looks better than last year’s team, which finished 36th in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings. Many of the expectations are predicated on the success of freshmen Julian Suri, Brinson Paolini, Adam Sumrall and Tim Gornik, all of whom are playing the Coca-Cola. Senior Adam Long once again will be the team’s leader.

Long has been a top-notch player for a couple of years now. Freshmen, on the other hand, are always something of an unknown quantity; some players make an easy transition to college, while others inexplicably can’t carry their junior success to the college game.

The Coca-Cola will be a good test run. The event is being played in conjunction with the Gordin-Myers Classic, which essentially is the NCAA Division III Preview. The Gordin-Myers also is being played Monday and Tuesday at the Duke Golf Club.

The tournament is named for Dr. Richard Gordin, who coached at Ohio Wesleyan from 1955 to '93, and former Duke coach, the late Rod Myers. Gordin coached Myers and current Duke coach Jamie Green at Ohio Wesleyan. Green’s assistant, Jon Whithaus, is a former Ohio Wesleyan player and coach, as well.

“We are excited about this special tribute to Dr. Gordin and Rod Myers, melding Division III athletics with Division I athletics,” Green said, “to allow for great competition and exposure to collegiate tournament golf for more players.”

In the fall of 2010, Duke will add another top-notch tournament to the fall schedule with the Rod Myers Invitational. Teams will stay at the five-star Washington Duke Inn and have full access to the Blue Devils’ practice facilities.

Next week’s event, the Coca-Cola, was the brainchild of former Duke coach O.D. Vincent. Vincent also liked to start the season later than most and to play a limited fall schedule. He figured this approach would avoid burnout before the postseason.

Green decided to get off to a late start this year to help the freshmen make a smooth transition to campus. The Coca-Cola isn’t just an exhibition, though. It will carry weight in individual rankings, for All-American honors, etc.

Of course, if the freshmen are in the running for All-American honors, odds are the Blue Devils will have a good season as well.

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