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Friday, Apr. 29, 2016

Confidence a key club in Duncan's bag

Thursday, May 13, 2010

With just a quick glance over Kaitlyn Duncan's resume, it would be easy to assume that the sport of golf comes easy for the Highland High School standout.

After all, she earned All-State honors while helping the Highland Lady Rebels to a fifth-place finish in Class 4A this past spring.

That was after she had already captured Regional Medalist honors and finished as runner-up Medalist in the prestigious Hurricane Classic in Jonesboro.

And not to mention, her dad Tommy is an avid golfer, while Kaitlyn's older brother Nathan played collegiate golf after wrapping up a fantastic career on the links for the Rebels.

So this game of golf must come pretty easy for Kaitlyn Duncan, right?

Turns out, that's not the case.

"I went from being really bad to really good in a year," she said. "My ninth-grade year, I was shooting 120s and then I came back the next year and I was in the 90s."

Was this 25-plus stroke reduction courtesy of some kind of magic wand?


"It was a lot of hard work," Duncan said. "And that work didn't stop there. I've been working hard to improve my game the past two and a half years and I'm still working hard to keep improving. I decided that I wanted to focus on this (golf) more than basketball, so I just got out there and got after it and worked at it."

All that hard work has paid off for Duncan in the form of a college scholarship to Lyon College. She signed her letter of intent May 6 in a ceremony in John A. Cooper Gymnasium on the Highland High School campus.

The link between Highland High School and Lyon College goes back several years, according to Lyon College Head Coach Julie Church.

"I've got a good connection with Highland. I played college golf with (former Highland standout) Leslie Bragg and we're still good friends, so it's been easy for me to keep up with Highland golf," Church said. "The school's so close that I could follow her scores. And her brother Nathan played for me, so he kept me informed about her, so I've been following her since about the 10th grade."

That also allowed Duncan to develop a bond with Church over the course of the last couple of years.

"Coach Church is really awesome and she's made me feel really welcome," Duncan said. "And it's (Lyon) close to home, which I like, and I just felt like that's the school I needed to go to."

While Duncan's performance on the greens are the most noticeable thing the Lady Rebels will miss, there's something else they'll have to get by without -- Duncan's leadership abilities.

"Kaitlyn was a tremendous leader for us," said Highland Head Golf Coach Lou Lynn Paul. "She stepped out on that course and just radiated confidence. And the younger players coming up would go out and see her ... and that gave them the confidence that they could go out there and do this, just by watching her. She brought the leadership we needed."

As most that play the sport know, golf can do terrible things to a player's psyche. Step on the course not ready to give it your all and the results usually speak for themselves. Good thing for Highland then, that Duncan was loaded with the antidote for that -- confidence.

"Her confidence was a big part of her success here. Golf is such a mental game that if you don't have that confidence, you're not going to succeed," said Paul. "She knows she's going to do well when she steps on the course. And I think she'll do great there (at Lyon). She's dedicated and she's ready to go to the next level."

Church also believes that Duncan is poised to make an impact at the collegiate level.

"She's going to be a really good asset for us and should contribute right away," she said. "And I think she'll be really successful at our level. The biggest difference between high school and college golf is the distance. The yardage gets a little longer in college, but Kaitlyn hits the ball extremely well and long, so I don't think she'll have as hard a time adjusting as some other kids might."

And if Duncan continues to make improvements to her game the way she did between her freshman and sophomore years at Highland, who knows what the future will hold?

More hard work, probably.

"I hope my game continues to improve. I'll be getting a lot more time to practice and play throughout the week, so that should help," Duncan said. "And I think playing in some of the bigger tournaments will help, too. I'm playing some bigger tournaments this summer to help me get ready for college golf, so that experience will help."

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