DURHAM, N.C. - Since the start of their golf careers at Duke three years ago, Julian Suri and Brinson Paolini have become significant impact players. As they continue to rewrite the program record books, both golfers remain humble and focused on getting one step closer to their ultimate goal.
Paolini, who has won several accolades, including 2009 ACC Rookie of the Year, 2010 All-ACC and 2010 honorable mention All-America, continues to play with focus, dedication and consistency. His efforts are evident as his name is all over the record books.
The Virginia Beach, Va. native, owns three of the top 10 single season stoke averages in school history. His 72.29 stroke average is second best in school history behind Ryan Blaum. The junior also ranks third in rounds in the 60s (20), ninth in the under-par rounds (31), tied for second in even-par or better rounds (16), tied for sixth in top-five finishes (8), tied for 11th in top 10 finishes (11) and tied for 12th in top 20 finishes (16).
"The way I look at it is we're so fortunate to be in a position like we are, to play a Div. 1 sport for a school like this, so I just try to be grateful for everything and everyone around me, and all those accolades are just icing on the cake," Paolini said.
Paolini just notched his first career victory two weeks ago at the River Landing Intercollegiate, firing an eight-under 208 to claim a two-shot victory for his first individual medalist honors. He closed in strong fashion with a six-under 66 in the final round of play at the River Landing Course in Wallace, N.C.
"Obviously getting my first win a couple of weeks ago was pretty special. It just shows that all the hard work does pay off," he said. "I don't think I'll forget about that for a while."
Meanwhile, teammate Suri is having one of the best seasons in Duke golf history this year. The St. Augustine, Fla. native, is ranked ninth in the latest Golfweek/Sararin rankings, and owns a 70.59 stroke average, which not only leads the team and the ACC, but also is the lowest season average in school history. He ranks fifth in rounds in the 60s (8), he is tied for sixth in under-par rounds (15) and tied for seventh in even-par or better rounds (18) heading into this weekend's ACC Championship. The junior has won two tournaments, placing him tied for second in wins. He has also claimed five top-five finishes to tie for fourth, and seven top-10 finishes to tie for sixth.
"Obviously this year, winning individually has been really great kind of breaking the mold there and trying to get a couple of W's, it's been a lot of fun and I've seen a lot of improvement," Suri said.
His successful season only adds to his various accomplishments throughout his career. He ranks third in Duke history with a 72.49 stroke average. He is fifth in rounds in the 60s (16), tied for sixth in under-par rounds (34), ninth in even-par or better rounds (43), tied for sixth in top five finishes (8), seventh in top 10 finishes (14) and tied for seventh in top 20 finishes (19). More impressively, he boasts a 9-1-1 record in match play during his three-year span at Duke.
"I try not to pay attention to that. There has been a lot of great stuff, but there is a lot left to do," added Suri. "Each time you tee it up, it's like a brand new chapter, so I just try to start over and forget about what I have done in the past. I shut everything out."
Since their arrival at Duke three years ago, Suri and Paolini have paced the men's golf team to four tournament titles including the 2011 Rod Myers Invitational, the 2011 Callaway Collegiate Match Play Championship, the 2011 Irish Creek Collegiate, and the 2011 NCAA East Regional, which marked the first team title at that event. The juniors also helped lead the Blue Devils to two NCAA Championship appearances, including a semifinal finish at the 2011 NCAA Match Play Championship. With Suri and Paolini, Duke has also finished as tournament runner-ups eight times, including five times this season.
"At the National Championship last year I remember the specific moment where I run to find the team, I'm jumping off the cart and we're just kind of running into each other and there was this whole group around, and that moment was just everything," said Paolini. "It was worth everything."
Throughout their three years, Suri and Paolini have experienced vast success. They have both left a lasting impression on the Duke golf program.
"It's special. We've had a great legacy here with a lot of great players," Paolini says. "We're just trying to focus on getting better and those are just side effects and it's great that they've happened but we just want to continue to get better."
"I think we all believe that we're a top team and we can achieve some of the goals that we set out at the beginning of the season, and there really isn't any reason why we shouldn't," added Suri. "As long as we focus on what we can control, I think we'll be in good shape."
Suri and Paolini have not only had successful campaigns on the course, but off the course they have had positive effects on their teammates. Both players are two-time ACC All-Academic team members and Paolini is a 2012 CoSIDA Academic All-America nominee. Their accomplishments help to motivate and influence their teammates, which has contributed to the recent team success.
"Their work ethic and practice habits are tremendous," said head coach Jamie Green. "The other guys get to see the players who have had that kind of success on the golf course, be the guys who are there just as long and working on just as many things. I think that is important and it influences our team tremendously. They lead by example in the practice area and that is every bit as important. Both of them have gotten better at the unique things they wanted to get better at these past couple of years. I think the fact that they've gotten better and not just stayed the same is also influential on their teammates."
"I'd like to think so, but I think more so how we go about preparing motivates them more" added Paolini. "Julian is having a great year and seeing how he has prepared motivates people more and our teammates are practicing harder and putting in more effort and I think that is pretty cool."
Both Suri and Paolini agree that their college experiences have provided them with a platform necessary to improve their strengths and weaknesses, so they can achieve their aspirations of playing on the PGA Tour.
"Ultimately all of us want to play on the PGA Tour, that's kind of our main goal," Paolini said. "Everything I do in practice is to be better and be ready for that, how can I get better everyday, how can I practice more efficiently, what's going to help me be in a better frame of mind every time I play."
"I've grown as a person and as a player. I've gotten a lot more mature, and it's just another stepping stone like past accomplishments, another way for me to improve," said Suri. "This isn't the end all be all, I obviously want to keep going and keep progressing so it's great for my confidence. I feel like I've improved a lot, and if I can improve this much in one year, that is motivation for years to come."
Suri and Paolini dream of someday playing professional golf on the PGA Tour, but for now, they are busy rewriting the Duke record books as they prepare for the 2012 postseason. The tandem takes another step forward this weekend at the ACC Championship at Old North State Club, where the Blue Devils will be looking for their first conference title since 2005.
Paolini has been a the top of his game in ACC Championship play recording a pair of top 5 finishes and posting a 68.5 stroke average in his six rounds at Old North State Club. Suri finished tied for third a year ago in the event with a seven-under 209 to help lead the team to a second place finish.
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