Duke’s Boutier ready to test her mettle at U.S. Open

Jun. 18, 2014 @ 04:04 PM

The best player in women’s college golf is ready for her sport’s ultimate test.

Less than a month after leading Duke to the NCAA team championship, rising junior Celine Boutier will tee off at the U.S. Women’s Open Thursday at 12:41 p.m. at Pinehurst No. 2.

“I’m really excited to play this tournament because I want to compare my game to the best players in the world,” Boutier said after a practice round Wednesday. “I want to see where I stand.”

Boutier was named the Women's Golf Coaches Association player of the year after a dominant spring, which included an ACC individual championship and a runner-up finish at the NCAA Championship. She posted three wins and a 70.77 stroke average in seven tournaments and a 616-37 head-to-head record.

Boutier has always had talent and a strong work ethic -– she’s not afraid to spend hours at a time on her short game -– but the biggest reason for her recent success has come from improving the mental aspect of her game.

“She’s gradually learned to be a little kinder to herself on the golf course,” Duke coach Dan Brooks said. “You don’t get that good without being really demanding on yourself, but you need to learn to ease off, also. She’s happier out there and that’s helped her play better.”
A forgiving mental approach will be important at the U.S. Open, which is built to be the most demanding test in the sport.

“It’s definitely a challenging course,” Boutier said. “Every single shot, you have to be very careful and just try to play your best. You’re going to miss some shots because it’s so hard that you have to expect it. You can’t let it get you down.”

The Clamart, France, native came to the U.S. because she wanted to pursue her studies while still playing golf at a high level, which isn’t possible in the French system. She also wanted to begin the transition to living in the U.S., which she will do when she joins the LPGA tour.

She will get a peek at her future pro competition this week. The 20-year-old entered a U.S. Open qualifier for the first time last month in Westminster, Colo., and topped the 48-player field to earn one of two available spots in the main event. Now she will join 2005 graduate Brittany Lang and Mina Harigae, who played at Duke for one semester in 2008, as former Blue Devils in the U.S. Open field.
Lang will tee off on hole No. 10 Thursday at 1:25 p.m., while Harigae will start on No. 10 at 2:09 p.m.

Duke golfers have come close to winning the U.S. Open before. Lang finished tied for second after her senior year in 2005, and rising senior Jenny Chuasiriporn forced a 20-hole playoff with LPGA star Se Ri Pak in 1998.

As one of the most confident players in the field after her recent college success, Boutier hopes to match the results of those past Duke amateurs this week. But no matter what, the experience should bode well as the Blue Devils attempt to repeat their championship performance next season.

“After playing a major tournament, everything seems easy after that,” said Brooks, who expects to be in the gallery Thursday. “It’s an incredible experience for her. The more you get players out there in front of everybody, the better.”