(WGHP) — It would be easy to think that Phoebe Brinker was preordained to be an excellent golfer.
She’s a freshman at Duke and already an All-ACC golfer who has a Blue Devil freshman record round of 64 (8-under) to her credit.
But her concentration on the sport didn’t start all that long ago.
“Probably around 12 or 13,” Brinker said. “Both of my cousins played college golf, so I grew up playing with them, kept up with them, and before I knew it I was out on my own.”
It was more than just her two cousins. Their mother, Suzy Whaley, played at UNC-Chapel Hill and was just the second woman (after Babe Zaharias in 1938) to play in a PGA event against men when she played in the 2003 Greater Hartford Open.
“For sure, we’re an incredibly athletic family but that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s going to transfer into your golf unless you work at it,” Whaley said.
And that’s exactly what Brinker is doing. This spring, she entered a qualifying event to play in the US Women’s Open. And she had someone aspiring to the same goals on her bag.
Cecil Monroe is 65 now but has had a lot of athletic success in his life, playing both college basketball and golf and playing against the ACC all-stars in their basketball barnstorming tour well into his 50s.
Monroe retired from the US Postal Service and caddies now, and he says it’s a lot more than just handing the player a club.
“It’s more strategy than just carrying a bag,” Monroe said. “Anybody can shoot numbers. You’ve got to get in their head and understand their game.”
Even though she just finished her freshman year, Brinker is tall and can drive the ball more than 275-yards. But Whaley says it’s her drive to succeed at everything she does that will make Brinker a success in golf.
“When you’re around it a lot – and you can’t help but be around it a lot in my family – you end up enjoying it and when you end up enjoying something, typically, you strive to get better at it,” Whaley said.
Brinker, who had straight-As her freshman year at Duke while majoring in computer science, statistics and English, says it was something simple that she learned from her aunt that is most valuable.
“Mostly just patience – just stay patient on the golf course – even if you have a bogey, you can still come back with a birdie, that’s the biggest lesson she’s taught me,” Brinker said.
Whaley also qualified to play in a US Open and believes Brinker will too.
“There’s not many people that can say that they’ve done it, but I’m convinced Phoebe will play in a major,” she said.
See Brinker hit the ball – and her caddy’s connection to US Opens past – in this edition of the Buckley Report.