A-P’s lone golfer Duden advances to sectional

MAHOMET — When Anna Duden was in sixth grade, she attended a youth golf camp at Willow Pond Golf Course in Rantoul.

Hosted by Pat Leary, the camp lasted a week, and by the end of it, the former Rantoul/Paxton-Buckley-Loda golf coach — who was in charge of the Eagles program in 2016 — approached Duden and her father, Gary, to see if it was a sport she might want to consider pursuing more seriously.

“I knew if she was on board with it, I was going to support everything I could do for her,” Gary Duden said. “My wife, Jill, and I said, ‘Let’s give it a shot.’

“Anna was all about it, and she picked it up. And she has really excelled from then on and has gotten better as the years have gone. In golf, it’s a very frustrating sport you have to stick to it, and any type of changes you make can frustrate you enough to put your clubs in the lake and say, ‘Forget it. I’m done.’ But she knew she could do it, and that’s where her interest in the game sparked to where we are today.”

Armstrong-Potomac’s lone golfer and her coach have been celebrating the success the former has enjoyed this season, as the sophomore shot a 95 last Wednesday to finish in a tie for fifth place at the Class 1A Mahomet-Seymour Regional and advance to Monday’s Auburn Sectional. Duden shot a 117 at the sectional round and did not advance. The cutoff was 89.

“We’ve played about 10 meets this year, and she’s done really well. She’s a competitor, and she’s hard on herself. I think she gets that from me. We clash on a good note very well together. I’m glad she can compete, and she knows she’s a very much above-average golfer,” Gary Duden said. “She knows the competition is going to get better and better as she goes. But right now, her confidence is very high, and she feels like if she can play her game and stay out of trouble, she’s got a chance to move on. But she’s going to give 110 percent. If she doesn’t make it, that’s going to be her goal next year.”

Anna Duden, who has a mild case of cerebral palsy, has broken through that adversity to excel in a golf career that began in sixth grade and carried over to her seventh- and eighth-grade years, in which she finished 49th and 25th in state, respectively, while golfing at Gifford Grade School.

After playing in just a few junior varsity tournaments in 2017, the standout sophomore has improved her game in her first full-time varsity campaign. Duden has one of the better averages in the area, shooting a 47.5 per nine holes, and two weeks ago, she shot a 95 across 18 holes to finish tied for first at the Vermilion Valley Conference tournament.

“This year we went at it like gangbusters, and she decided with her disabilities, (golf is) what she wants to focus on. She feels like she can compete at the highest level. She loves playing golf, and she’s a competitor,” Gary Duden said. “She’s got a lot of potential, and she’s a hard worker. Once she commits herself to something, she’s going to go at it 110 percent, and that’s all I can ask of her as a coach and father is to compete at the highest level.

“Our goal this season was to get through the regional and anything from section to state would just be a great advancement for her golf season. She’s already got goals for next year, even if she doesn’t make it on Monday. She told me (Thursday night) her goal is to get to state as a sophomore. She knows it’s doable, but she knows she’s going to have to play very well.”

Contact Zack Carpenter at zcarpenter@rantoulpress.com and on Twitter @ZackCarpenter11.

Categories (3):Prep Sports, Girls' Golf, Sports

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