At Duke, the athletics hierarchy is simple -- men's basketball followed by everybody else. But with the recent failures of the hoops squad, it may be time to start taking a look at another dynasty in the making in Durham -- the women's golf team. The three-time defending national champions are gunning for a fourth straight crown this week in Albuquerque, and no golfer is more responsible for the Blue Devils' success than junior Amanda Blumenherst.

Blumenherst's utter dominance on this level -- she was named National Player of the Year as a freshman and sophomore and is the odds-on favorite to take the honor this year, -- puts her in esteemed company on a campus that sprouts a tent city devoted to basketball in wintry months. She is the driving force behind a legitimate dynasty and could go down as the most prolific athlete in Duke history.

You read that right. Not Johnny Dawkins, Christian Laettner, Grant Hill, J.J. Redick or any other Mike Krzyzewski product; Amanda Blumenherst, a 5-foot-9 basketball fan who just so happens to shape a dimpled balata like silly putty.

"Not a whole bunch of people watch women's college golf, but once in a while you get people come up to me and congratulate me," Blumenherst says. "It is nice when we do get recognized, because it is a big accomplishment to win three national championships in a row."

Humble and understated, Blumenherst uses a somewhat-unorthodox swing off the tee, yet the ball consistently finds the middle of the fairway. She was potent with her driver when she arrived at Duke, but according to coach Dan Brooks, she's become even longer since arriving in Durham while at the same time, improving her touch on the green.

But if there's one thing that Blumenherst -- the daughter of a club professional -- has learned at Duke, it's how to handle success. Her personality, unlike that of other golfing primadonas, isn't one to call overt attention to herself.

"She just didn't have the time. She was on her way to being No. 1 as a junior, she just became a college player first," Brooks said. "It's sort of like when you finish a tournament and you didn't win. Sometimes, it's not that you didn't win, you just ran out of holes. She was going to be the best junior in the country, she just ran out of years as a junior.

"Then she came to college, and this is where she became the best."

And that quick description ("she came to college") is what separates Blumenherst from the girls she battled in junior tournaments -- the Morgan Pressel and Paula Creamer-generation of prodigiously talented youngsters who have already supplanted Annika Sorenstam as the face of the LPGA.

Blumenherst could have been one of them. She could have spent every weekend on the road, traveling from the Corning Classic in Corning, N.Y. this week to the Ginn Tribute in Charleston, S.C. next week. She could have collected paychecks as an 18-year old and might have even improved on her 10th-place finish in the U.S. Open two years ago. She even could have ditched Duke after setting every freshman record and a national title to compete with the best in the world waiting in the other.

But the LPGA isn't going anywhere, and Blumenherst knows that. So she stuck around to live in a dorm, enjoy being a college student and making the critical putt on No. 18 to lift Duke to its 13th straight ACC championship in April.

Instead of grinding it out in New York this week, Blumenherst in the opposite corner of the United States at the University of New Mexico Championship Golf Course, where Duke won the NCAA Fall Preview against an elite field back in September.

She's only a few days away from potentially adding to the gap between her and everybody else.

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