January 26, 2024
The early starters at a professional golf tournament rarely receive close attention from The Golf Channel or other broadcast outlets. Nonetheless, their performances are often well worth watching and their stories still worth telling.
At last spring’s ShopRite LPGA Classic presented by Acer, I followed Lindy Duncan as she played her second round with the 7:30 a.m. group. For this round she joined Gina Kim, who earned her 2023 LPGA card via the Epson tour, and Australian Su Oh.
Two days earlier on the practice green, I met and chatted with Duncan and her caddie, Casey Johnson.
Duncan played for Duke, earned four-time first team All-America honors, and turned professional in 2013. To date 2018 had been her best season, highlighted by a second-place finish at the Volunteers of America LPGA Texas Classic.
More recently she divided her time between Epson and LPGA events. She returned to Q-School after dropping to 126th on the 2022 money list. The ShopRite was only her second LPGA event of 2023. She missed the cut at her first one in Hawaii two months earlier.
Duncan began the day 2-under par, with Oh at 3-under and Kim at one over. The group had finished their Friday round in the late afternoon.
Just before tee time, I met Duncan’s mother, Debbie Beckett, who also followed her daughter.
The quick turnaround from the late round the day before didn’t seem to faze Duncan or Oh, both of whom birdied the first hole. Oh gave it right back on the second, while Duncan made a second birdie on the short par 5 third hole. However, Kim bogeyed her first two holes and seemed a bit rattled.
Duncan made a few more pars, while Oh missed a par putt from 4 feet on the fourth hole.
Kim moved quickly to the 6th tee well before Oh finished the fifth. I soon learned a rules official told the group they were on the clock for slow play.
This was Oh’s doing. She moved at the same pace as Kim and Duncan on the way to the greens, but slowed down considerably for each putt.
Duncan’s tee shots had been fine, with four of the first five all landing in the fairways and the other one just a yard or so in the right rough. On the sixth, however, she pulled her three-wood hard and left. As Duncan left the tee box, she caught her mother’s eye and made a gesture with her arms – and not a happy one.
Her ball landed several yards off the fairway and in a mound of high fescue. Duncan conferred with her caddie, took unplayable lie relief, and eventually made double bogey.
Kim continued to rush to the next tee box before the others finished, going out of order in an obvious attempt to deal with the clock problem. The group parred the 7th and 8th, with Oh and Duncan making nice birdies on the 9th hole.
Then they stopped.
The last threesome scheduled to start their round on the tenth hole had not yet hit their tee shots.
The officials took Duncan’s group off the clock. Ironically enough, they had to wait to play most of their tee shots (and some others) for the remainder of the day.
The three golfers continued to add pars, bogeys, and an occasional birdie to their totals. Duncan birdied the twelfth, bogeyed the fourteenth and fifteenth, birdied the sixteenth, and added another birdie on the last hole. She finished one-under for the day, 3-under total.
In our post-round chat Duncan stressed the fun parts of the day. “Five birdies, so that’s always good. Hit a lot of good shots.”
I asked her to compare the morning greens to the afternoon of the first round.
“They’re always tricky out here to read and to judge the bounces, especially on the approach shots. You combine that with the wind, so it’s a lot of variables. It’s hard to anticipate what the ball’s going to do once it lands. Putting was reasonably predictable, we were first group today, so they were pretty smooth.”
I asked about her double bogey. She said, “Our group was on the clock, and I rushed, and hit a bad shot. It was unfortunate. It was only about a foot in the fescue.”
Summing up the round, Duncan said, “I had a lot of fun with Casey and yeah, just every day try to learn. I think I’ll learn from this one.”
Duncan had a few more struggles in the final round, failing to make enough birdies to overcome a double bogey and several bogeys. She finished one-over par, tied for 67th, and earned $3,760 for her first LPGA check for 2023.
However, this tournament was the first of a nice string of successes for Duncan for the rest of the season. She made 10 cuts of the fourteen events she entered after the ShopRite, with her best performance a third-place finish at the Dana Open near Toledo, OH. Her $233,875 total winnings easily kept her LPGA card for 2024.