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March 14, 2006 - Image 12

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12 - The Michigan Daily - Tuesday, March 14, 2006
Schmucker's strong play
leading the way for Blue

0

By Bryan Hamilton
Daily Sports Writer
It's not how you start but how you finish that counts.
This old cliche held true two weeks ago at the Rio
Verde Collegiate women's golf tournament. After
opening the tournament with a first-round score of
76, Michigan senior Amy Schmucker fought back
over the next two days to put herself into a battle atop
the leaderboard with Northwestern sophomore Brit-
tany Johnston.
With the two neck and neck in the tournament's final
round, the outcome of the match came down to the final
two holes. Schmucker was up one, as Johnston attacked
the 17th pin, and leaving herself a 12-foot birdie putt to
close the gap.
But the prospect of losing the lead heading into the
round's final hole was not something that could rattle
Schmucker, a one-time tournament winner.
"I knew I had the upper hand," Schmucker said.
"Being that I am a senior and had won a tournament
before, I felt pretty good about my chances."
She had reason to. After walking off her yardage
to the pin, Schmucker pulled a wedge from her bag
for the 70-yard approach shot. When her ball abruptly
stuck two feet from the cup, all a deflated Johnston
could do was slump her shoulders.
Johnston went on to miss her putt and then failed to
keep pace with Schmucker on 18, eventually losing the
match by three strokes. The victory proved to be the
best 54-hole'score of Schmucker's career, but it was not
quite enough to propel the Wolverines to a team victory,
as they finished second behind Northwestern.
"We were a little disappointed because Northwestern
was the one team we really wanted to beat," Schmucker
said. "But it's early in the season, and I think we have
some girls who are real close to getting over a big hur-

dle and playing well."
Schmucker followed up this impressive showing with
another top-10 finish this past weekend at the Lady
Gator Invitational.
By attempting to get over that hurdle and step up
her game, the team may have no better role model than
Schmucker. As a senior, she is one of the players who
takes on a leadership role with the team - a role that
can be a unique challenge in the individual sport of golf.
Because golfers usually play without the accompaniment
of other teammates, it's difficult for someone to be a leader
and encourage others on the course. But Schmucker takes
advantage of other opportunities.
"I cut some of the chit-chat out during our practice
rounds and take each shot seriously," Schmucker said.
"I just try to lead by example in practice and hope it
rubs off on everyone."
It would certainly be valuable if some of Schmucker's
late-round heroics did rub off on her teammates. With
the season getting under way, the Big Ten looks to be a
tightly contested conference. Several teams, including
Michigan, have a legitimate chance to be in the mix at
the end, and Michigan looks to be one of those teams.
"I think by the time the Big Ten Tournament starts
we'll be ready to compete with the top teams like Pur-
due and Ohio State," Schmucker said. "It's going to be
really close, and I wouldn't be surprised if there will
only be a few shots separating us at the end."
Schmucker realizes the team has some growing to do
over the course of the season. But she has no doubt that
when the Wolverines reach their potential, they will be
something special. After all, it's how they finish the
season that will define their team.
"We have a really talented team that just hasn't
peaked yet," Schmucker said. "But all I have to say is
when we do start playing to our capabilities look out,
we're going to be lights-out."

Senior Brandon Duff finished with a 54-hole total of 219 in the Puerto Rico Classic three'weeks ago.

Duff one of the fewbright
spots in disappointing finish

By Bryan Hamilton
Daily Sports Writer
It's easy to find positives in vic-
tory.
It's sometimes reasonable to find
them in defeat.
But finding positives after fin-
ishing last in an 18-team tourna-
ment is a bit more challenging.
Over spring break, the Michigan
men's golf team had to wrestle with
this conundrum.
Playing in the Puerto Rico Clas-
sic in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico, the
Wolverines faced some of the coun-
try's toughest golf competition.
With 10 of the top 25 teams in
the nation participating, the Wol-
verines failed to keep pace and
took a disappointing last-place fin-
ish back to Ann Arbor.
Senior Brandon Duff was one of
the few Wolverines who finished
strong, leading the team with a 54-
hole score of 219 for a 35th-place
finish.
Despite Duff's individual efforts,
he and his teammates had higher
expectations.
"We were a little disappointed,"
Duff said. "We went in hoping to
finish a bit higher than we did obvi-
ously. It was just a tough tourna-

ment for us."
The Wolverines were not the
only Big Ten team to struggle with
early-season rust. No. 9 Minnesota
could muster up only a 17th-place
finish - one place ahead of the
Wolverines.
"It's tough for Midwestern
teams," Duff said. "Because of the
weather, we don't get a chance to
play year-round like some of the
Southern teams do that were down
there. It's just hard to tell where a
team is really at this early on."
The Wolverines may be one of
many teams not entirely sure where
they are right now, but they cer-,
tainly know where it is they want
to go.
"We would like to make it to the
regional," Duff said. "That's some-
thing we haven't done in a while.
But in order to do that, we're going
to have to play well and give our-
selves a chance to win in the Big
Ten Tournament."
If the Wolverines are to succeed,
Duff said they must play better as
a team.
As a senior leader, one of his
roles is to remind his teammates to
stay focused.
"I just try to remind them that
we need to think about the team,"

Duff said. "Not to take big risks
out there and just realize that every
single shot counts for us."
There is no doubt Duff's per-
spective and encouragement helped
the Wolverines put a tough tourna-
ment behind them. But it's not an
experience he wants his teammates
to completely forget either.
"I think the tournament was a
good experience too," Duff said,
"We ended up getting a lot of prac-
tice in down there on a tight course,
and we played against some really
good teams."
Duff has also found it important
to refresh his team's memory of
their previous success.
Just this past fall, this same
group of golfers won the Wolverine
Intercollegiate tournament on its
home course.
"We just need to remember that
tournament and, hopefully, build
some momentum off of it," Duff
said.
The Wolverines may be off to a
difficult start, but not one that will
keep them down.
And with aspirations for the
season still high as ever, the Wol-
verines may have found the silver
lining to their last-place finish -
perspective.

4

Senior Amy Schmucker's strong play has paced the Wolverines this season.

'I

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March 14, 6-7:30 p.m.: Money Management 101 "Good Credit, Bad Debt"
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As the work place becomes more and more competitive, how are you going
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9

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