The anticipation of winning a national championship began well before the start of the 1998-99 women's golf campaign. From the minute Duke wrapped up the 1998 NCAA Championships with a fourth-place finish, tying a school best, talk of a title was already brewing.
Everyone knew who Duke had coming back from the 1998 team. Jenny Chuasiriporn, a two-time All-America and two-time ACC Player of the Year, was a rising senior. Kalen Anderson, who tied for ACC Rookie of the Year recognition, was set to begin her sophomore campaign. Rising senior Filippa Hansson and junior Amie Lehman had proven to be steady performers in head coach Dan Brooks' starting lineup, while junior Anne Cardea and senior Amanda Loewen provided experienced depth to Duke's squad.
Despite all that returned for 1998-99, it was the incoming players who sparked the excitement. Freshmen Beth Bauer and Candy Hannemann were two of the most talented junior players in the country.
Ranked No. 1 in the country by Golf Week and Golf Digest, Bauer was sure to have an immediate impact on the Duke lineup. The six-time AJGA All-America selection had won 16 career AJGA events and a total of 29 All-American tournaments. Hannemann didn't draw as much attention as Bauer, but the insiders knew what she could do for the program. She was the No. 4 ranked junior player and a three-time All-America. There was no doubt about her abilities.
If the excitement about the upcoming season wasn't strong enough at the beginning of the summer, it certainly was rampant at the end of it.
Chuasiriporn had gone from being a well- known player in the college ranks to a young golfer who captivated the world. Chuasiriporn entered the U.S. Open as an amateur and four days later drained a 40-foot birdie putt on the 18th green, the 72nd hole of the tournament, to force a dramatic 18-hole playoff for the title with LPGA star Se Ri Pak. Her expression after the putt fell was priceless, and it was captured and used on the front page of every newspaper's sports section.
On the following day, Chuasiriporn and Pak moved on to a draw after 18 holes. The event then advanced to the first sudden-death situation in the 53-year history of the tournament. Though Pak won on the second hole of sudden death, Chuasiriporn's youthful excitement and her amazing ability won the hearts of countless people around the world.
Bauer and Hannemann joined Chuasiriporn in qualifying for the U.S. Open as amateurs. Bauer and Chuasiriporn were also members of the victorious Curtis Cup team, while Bauer defeated Chuasiriporn in head-to-head competition to take the 1998 North & South Amateur Championship. It was certainly a summer the Duke women's golf program will never forget.
As the media attention over Chuasiriporn's U.S. Open accomplishment began to die down, Brooks and his Blue Devils were finally ready to start their quest. Ranked No. 1 in the preseason polls and the favorite to win the national championship, Duke went to work.
It didn't take long for the Blue Devils to strike. In the first tournament of the year, Duke showed how lethal it could be in winning the event by a 36-stroke margin. Hannemann promptly went out and won her first collegiate tournament. Altogether, six Blue Devils finished in the top 10, including Anderson and Hansson who were both playing as individuals.
Duke followed that win up with three more victories to begin the year. The Blue Devils secured the title at the Bama Fall Preview in Tulsa, site of the 1999 NCAA Championship and an event that featured the top teams in the country. The squad continued its winning ways, earning the Mercedes-Benz Collegiate title for the second straight year and the Rolex Match Play.
In the final event of the fall season, Duke finished third at the Golf World/Palmetto Dunes Collegiate. But that was without the services of Chuasiriporn and Hannemann as Chuasiriporn was competing for the United States and Hannemann for Brazil in the World Amateur held in Santiago, Chile. Chuasiriporn went on to fire the lowest three-day total in the event's history in leading the U.S. to a record-setting team win.
After recording a fourth-place finish in the spring's first event, the Arizona Invitational, Duke rebounded to win the LSU/Fairwood Invitational and then the Lady Gamecock. Chuasiriporn secured the individual title at the Lady Gamecock, the seventh medalist honor of her career.
The Blue Devils finished second at the next event, the Arizona State/Ping Invitational, before Beth Bauer led Duke to its fourth-straight ACC Championship by earning individual medalist accolades.
Bauer collected a tie for first at the NCAA East Regional, despite a disappointing team finish of fourth. Still, the Blue Devils had reached the NCAA Championships for the 10th time under the direction of Brooks and the 12th time in school history.
Back to Tulsa the team went after what had been a whirlwind year. In the first round of the NCAAs, the Blue Devils fired the tournament's lowest round with a four-over-par 288 performance. That opening day gave the Blue Devils the cushion they needed as Hannemann collected an even-par 71, Bauer and Chuasiriporn followed with a 72 and Anderson fired a 73.
With a 12-stroke lead over Arizona State, Duke came back to the pack after the second round. Pepperdine had pulled within six strokes and Georgia was seven strokes behind the Blue Devils. Hannemann again played well, shooting a 72, while Anderson gave the team a 76. But Chuasiriporn and Bauer fired uncharacteristic rounds of 79 and 82, respectively.
With Duke still holding the lead and Hannemann one stroke off the individual race, the Blue Devils bounced back with a team score of 298 in the third round. That gave Duke an eight-stroke lead over Georgia and Arizona State heading into the final day. Hannemann's one-under-par 70 kept her in the hunt for the individual national title as she remained one-stroke behind Arizona State's Grace Park.
Understanding that eight strokes isn't a lot to make up in a team golf tournament, Duke knew it couldn't coast to the NCAA Championship. Arizona State and Georgia were two of the top teams in the country, and Arizona State had the experience of winning five of the last six national titles.
As Georgia drifted out of contention, Duke battled with Arizona State. The Blue Devils remained in the lead and Hannemann was still one stroke back of Park on the back nine when the horn was blown to clear the course for bad weather. The storm that hit brought severe wind, rain and hail that in the end forced the NCAA committee to call off the remainder of the final round.
With that decision made and a rule in place that allowed for no extra rain days, the results then went back to the standings after three rounds. The 1998-99 Blue Devils had won the school's first NCAA Championship for a woman's sport and the fourth overall at Duke. Park was awarded the individual title, with Hannemann becoming the second Duke golfer to be the runner-up in this event.
It was a moment that head coach Dan Brooks had been working toward for 15 years. He was named ACC, District and National Coach of the Year.
Bauer and Chuasiriporn were first-team All-America selections and Co-ACC Players of the Year. Bauer was both the National and ACC Freshman of the Year. Four Blue Devils were named to the All-ACC squad.
Duke won a then school-record eight tournaments, breaking the previous record of five set during the 1997-98 campaign. But it was how the team took care of business that will be remembered. Starting the year ranked No. 1, handling the pressure that builds on such a talented team to win the national championship, and then finally reaching that ultimate goal of finishing as the top team in the country will stand as this team's greatest achievement.