Hannah O’Sullivan taking course struggles in stride at Duke

Hannah O'Sullivan Duke Golf Team (Duke Athletics) Duke Athletics

Hannah O’Sullivan taking course struggles in stride at Duke

College

Hannah O’Sullivan taking course struggles in stride at Duke

It’s 60-something degrees and sunny in Durham, N.C., a vast improvement from the cruelly cold temperatures and snow that blanketed campus at the start of the year. Hannah O’Sullivan is a desert gal, hailing from Chandler, Ariz.

“I’m learning to acclimate,” she said.

That statement could apply to far more than the weather, as the former World No. 1 amateur adjusts to a new life in Durham. While five of her Duke teammates prepared for the Darius Rucker Intercollegiate on Hilton Head Island, S.C., O’Sullivan settled in for a quiet weekend. Head coach Dan Brooks held a three-round qualifier for all five spots for the Darius Rucker, and O’Sullivan did not make the lineup. She has yet to post a number this season for the Blue Devils.

It’s jarring for those on the outside to see a former U.S. Women’s Amateur champ who won on the Symetra Tour at the age of 16 riding the bench. But there’s not a hint of panic in the 19-year-old’s voice. Not a drop of desperation. She could be a walking advertisement for Duke athletics, the way she gushes over her college experience.

Hannah O'Sullivan Duke Golf Team (Duke Athletics)

Hannah O’Sullivan is very happy to be at Duke University. (Duke Athletics)

“I absolutely love it,” said O’Sullivan, “especially after taking a gap year. It’s been amazing to be here at Duke, to sit in a classroom with some of the brightest people.”

O’Sullivan took an intro to economics class last summer in Durham and is currently enrolled in ECON355, international trade. She hopes to someday use her platform in golf to apply what she has learned about income gaps and distribution of wealth around the world.

Professional tour life comes up often in conversation with O’Sullivan. Current struggles have not derailed her dreams. For now she’s enjoying the independence that college offers.

“Overall I just have a very well-rounded life here,” she said. “Every day I get more and more confident that this was the right decision for me.”

So, what’s wrong exactly with her golf?

O’Sullivan said she’s trying to rid her mind of extra technical thoughts. She wants to be more athletic and return to the natural sequencing of her swing. There have been interruptions to her progress, namely a small bone bruise in her right wrist and a twisted ankle last October. She missed the first qualifier of the spring season due to the flu.

Now she’s back to 100 percent, with no pain or restriction on her swing. Brooks said it’s absolutely possible that O’Sullivan could crack the lineup this spring.

“This is the kind of thing where golf is a journey for every one of these people that take it on as a serious endeavor,” Brooks said. “You don’t know how it’s going to unfold. You don’t know if it’s going to be tomorrow or next week.”

O’Sullivan’s road to Duke was particularly winding. She originally committed to the University of Southern California but turned down the scholarship to pursue an LPGA card. She then unexpectedly pulled out of the second stage of LPGA Q-School in the fall of 2016 and sought a new path in college golf. O’Sullivan has two years left of eligibility at Duke following this season.

“I know she’s extremely inspired and thriving,” O’Sullivan’s father, Greg said. “Hannah is really happy.”

The Blue Devils are ranked fifth in the nation behind the leadership of senior Leona Maguire, who has put together one of the best four-year careers in college golf history. She was joined on Hilton Head by sophomore Ana Belac, a winner this season, freshmen Miranda Wang and Jaravee Boonchant, and Maguire’s twin sister, Lisa. Italy’s Virginia Elena Carta, the 2016 NCAA champ and Women’s Amateur finalist, qualified for the lineup but did not play because of injury, making the Blue Devils’ bench the most decorated in college golf.

“I’m just enjoying being here at Duke,” said O’Sullivan, “finding out who I am on the golf course and in the classroom and overall as a person.” Gwk

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