Erica Shepherd was in Greenwood at the end of June, packing last minute errands for what she thought would be a long trip to Switzerland – a few days of golf for Team USA in the Arnold Palmer Cup, followed by seven weeks of ‘studies. abroad.
Just minutes after returning home from a nail appointment, however, she discovered the study program was cancelled, which upset the last half of her summer.
However, as has often been the case for the Center Grove graduate, things went well.
Shepherd took advantage of some unexpected extra time at home by making some changes to her golf game, ones she hopes will pay dividends during her senior season at Duke. The Blue Devils open their fall season today at ANNIKA Intercollegiate in Lake Elmo, Minnesota.
“I ended up coming home and I had no idea, because I wasn’t registered for any golf tournaments, nothing,” Shepherd said of his early return from Switzerland after posting a 3-1 record in its games at the Arnold Palmer Cup during the first three days of July.
The planned stay in Europe was not supposed to include a lot of golf for Shepherd. With a little extra time on her hands after her academic plans were scratched, she decided to put it to good use by changing her grip.
“Anyone who plays golf knows it’s just kind of a grueling process; it takes a long time to feel comfortable,” she said. “So I was able to do that, and I think now, being back early at Duke, I feel really settled. … I think I’m more ready to go than I would have been, which is great. , and I feel really good about the changes I made.
Shepherd was already one of the best amateur players in the country. She averaged 72.24 as a junior, racking up four top-five tournament finishes and finishing the season ranked 12th among varsity players in the nation. She’s starting the season on the ANNIKA Award watchlist — women’s college golf’s equivalent of the Heisman Trophy — for the third time in her Duke career.
Ahead of his shorter-than-expected trip overseas, Shepherd played in the Epson Tour’s Carolina Golf Classic in early June, finishing as a weak amateur with a total of 68-72-72-71—283. It was the fifth time she had finished with low amateur honors at a professional event.
She hasn’t played in a tournament in the 10 weeks since returning from Europe, however – her longest break from competition since the COVID-19 shutdown in early 2020. That break has made Shepherd even more eager to get back into action this week — especially after the Blue Devils narrowly missed qualifying for the NCAA championships last spring. Duke has everyone back from last season’s starting lineup and added rookie Andie Smith, who cracked the team’s top five in qualifying last week.
“You realize how much you love competition, and so I’ve missed playing tournaments a ton,” Shepherd said of the extended layoff. “Seeing everyone play in the United States (amateur) this summer was super hard to watch, because I love competition and I love playing against the best in the world – so I’m super excited to have the opportunity. to play in tournaments almost every week, that’s what we do. I haven’t been this excited, probably since COVID, to start tournaments again.
On her way to earning a degree in psychology from Duke next May, Shepherd is nearing a turning point in her golfing career. She could possibly stay in school for another year and take advantage of the extra year of NCAA pandemic eligibility, or she could leave next summer and start pursuing her dream of a professional career.
Shepherd acknowledges that she has already made up her mind in this regard, but she will leave the golf world hanging in the balance for a little while.
“I’ll probably announce it soon,” she said, “but not yet.”
Back on campus for now, Shepherd says she’s enjoyed having extra time at home this summer — and not just from a golf perspective.
“I really didn’t expect to be lucky enough to be home this summer, but I ended up playing so many rounds at Dye’s Walk,” she said. “I felt like a kid when I was there again. Just the evenings with my golf cart, with my dad, playing games against my brother, that was definitely the highlight of my summer.
“Unexpected, but every time I’m lucky enough to be home it reminds me how lucky I am and how I got to where I am.”