Taking One For The Team Jenny Chuasiriporn's senior year at Duke was a dream come true

May 30, 1999

What a crazy dream Jenny Chuasiriporn had. Crazy, anyway, for a
daughter of Thai immigrants living over a restaurant in
Baltimore. It was Jenny's dream that one day she would go to
college and play for a national champion golf team.

"It has always been my goal," she said last Saturday in Tulsa.
"I'd open up a magazine and see a picture of the Arizona State
team"--her eyes grew wide at the thought of the Sun Devils,
winners of six women's NCAA championships in the '90s--"and I
knew what I wanted to do." She laughed in her famously shy way,
covering her mouth with the tips of her fingers. "I mean, I'd be
lying if I said I dreamed about winning the U.S. Open."

So Jenny took on this modest challenge, to be a member of a
winning team in a college sport that no one follows, that rates
only agate type in some newspapers and no mention at all in
others. A weird sort of golf that requires you to carry your own
bag, look for your own ball in the rough and live for hugs and
high fives. There are no courtesy cars, just courtesy. If only
to give her dream a dash of the preposterous, Jenny decided to
fulfill her goal at Duke, which had never won a national
championship in any women's sport.

We'll jump over the years of practice, the junior tournaments,
the nights washing dishes and doing homework in the kitchen of
the restaurant. Jenny made it to Duke in the fall of '95, and
last year, her junior year, she won four tournaments, made
All-America for the second time, led the nation in stroke
average and finished the season as the second-ranked college
player. Then--you saw it--she overran her goal. Playing as an
amateur in the U.S. Women's Open at Blackwolf Run in Kohler,
Wis., Jenny made a 45-foot birdie putt on the final hole to tie
Se Ri Pak for the lead. She put her hand to her mouth as if she
had just blurted something embarrassing, when in fact she had
dunked one of the most memorable putts in golf history. On the
following day her 18-hole playoff with Pak ended in another
draw, and the thing was finally settled after two holes of
sudden death, with Pak the victor and Chuasiriporn the nation's
sweetheart.

It was time to cash in--the agents were lined up like bellmen at
a resort hotel--but Jenny said no, she was going back to Duke.
You see, she hadn't fulfilled her dream. The Duke women, in
their 11th trip to the NCAA championship, had finished fourth in
'98.

That's why Jenny was back at the NCAA tournament last week and
not in Austin at the LPGA Philips Invitational. Her Blue Devils
team, strengthened by spectacular freshmen Beth Bauer and Candy
Hannemann, was ranked No. 1 and favored to win the four-round,
stroke-play event. Jenny, however, had not played so well as a
senior, winning just once and dropping to 11th in the rankings.
"Her perspective has always been 'enjoy the moment,'" said her
coach, Dan Brooks, "but her moment was coming to an end, and it
kind of got to her." Through three rounds at Tulsa Country Club,
Jenny was 16 over par and 17 strokes behind the individual
leader, Arizona State's Grace Park.

But here's how it works in college golf: Each team has five
players, and the high score each day is thrown out. In
Saturday's final round, with Duke clinging to a tenuous lead,
Jenny missed fairways and missed greens but made 12-foot putts
for par or bogey, grinding for her team as hard as she had when
she was dueling Pak at the Open. Brooks again: "There are
players who are good enough to win individually, but if things
aren't going well they can't play with the heart of Jenny."

She was on the 15th green with Duke up by two when the storm
horns sounded, ending her exquisite agony. Two hours later, with
lightning cracking overhead and rainwater flooding the course,
officials scrubbed the round and declared Duke the champion by
the eight-shot margin it had over Arizona State and Georgia at
the start of the day. Jenny's score, the highest to count for
Duke, was 18 shots better than that of her team's fifth player.
"I'm thrilled," she said, her dark eyes sparkling as they had at
the Open. "I knew I could be part of a national championship."
She gulped and added, "I guess I'm a pro now!"

There she was wrong. She'll be a pro next week, when she tees it
up at the Women's Open in West Point, Miss. On Saturday night,
Jenny Chuasiriporn was still an amateur, still a team player and
some kind of American dream.

COLOR PHOTO: DAVID WALBERG

Said Chuasiriporn, her eyes sparkling as they had at the Open,
"I'm thrilled. I knew I could be part of a national
championship."

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)