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Briggs Duce and The Drive To Compete

Jan 16, 2021

Arizona Athletics "Wildcat Way" Strategic Plan

The story of Arizona Men's Golf standout Briggs Duce is one of determination, or as we say at the University to "Bear Down", which represents one of the core values of the University of Arizona and the Arizona Athletics' "Wildcat Way" Strategic Plan.

TUCSON, Ariz. -- Southern Arizona has a long-standing reputation for golf that adds to the game's notoriety in the 48th state. Arizona Men's Golf is not only located amid courses and a city with a true enthusiasm for golf, but it has pulled from the state of Arizona in its recruiting for years. However, Sierra Vista hasn't been a hotbed for Wildcats or NCAA Division I golfers.

So how does the youngest of three boys from a baseball family make it from Buena High School to the University of Arizona as a collegiate golfer? How does a lightly-recruited prospect make his way to the top of the playing rotation at a program like Arizona?

"I just made my mind up that I was going to make it on the team and then compete to make my way into the lineup," senior Briggs Duce noted. "I made those decisions at a time when I knew I wasn't good enough to achieve it all, but I was determined to play, compete and improve to make sure I got to that point in my career."

Determination, competition and humility are the keys to Duce's ascension through the ranks of the program as Arizona prepares to open the 2021 season in a Ryder Cup-style format versus Arizona State in the inaugural Copper Cup in Maricopa on Sunday, January 17.

"One of the things that is most impressive to me about Briggs is his blue collar, hard hat approach to everything he does," said Arizona head coach Jim Anderson. "He's from a great athletic family fueled by a sports-driven trio of boys, which makes him wired tough. There's not too many moments that he doesn't feel prepared for because of the competitive environment he's been raised in and competed in."

Duce was raised in a sports family and carried that dynamic with him to Arizona and not just to the game of golf.

"Briggs is an inward, fiery competitor," said Arizona assistant coach and former All-American Chris Nallen. "He's competitive with himself, the rest of the team and the field in events. He's one of the most competitive golfers that I've coached."

"He's definitely a competitive golfer, but he wants to beat you in anything from pool to ping pong," noted teammate and one-time roommate Trevor Werbylo. "Briggs is a gamer who is not your typical college golfer. He's not the son of former golfers, and he's not from a golf pedigree. His upbringing in Sierra Vista instilled a bit of an underdog, hungry mentality."

Two older brothers who went on to play college baseball, and a father who a baseball Olympian for Canada, made sure the youngest Duce always had that chip on his shoulder. He grew up trying to beat his family in every sport and game they played. The Duce family's competitive drive fueled him, but Briggs Duce also found some humility as he became a college golfer.

"Looking back, I was underdeveloped as a junior player," he reflects. "I had passion for the game, but I hadn't competed out of state or against really good players. I was a little clueless going into my freshman year about what I was getting into. I didn't know about how good all my teammates and opponents would be."

After enrolling at the University of Arizona, Duce took a singular approach to development. He was hellbent on making the lineup of Arizona's top five golfers for events. Much of his freshman and sophomore seasons, he was on the outside looking in as an individual participant in tournaments.

A pair of top-30 finishes as a junior and a taste of the postseason at the NCAA Regional in Louisville gave Duce a sample of what he craved. He had an ultimate moment of arrival in the U.S. Open qualifier at Sewailo following his junior year. Competing on Arizona's home course helped calm him and add a bit of confidence. He advanced to Newport Beach where he played well on a challenging course before falling a couple of shots short from moving on.

"Most guys would see that experience as a disappointment," Duce noted. "It was a wakeup moment for me. My confidence grew even more from that point forward, and it propelled me to have my best season at Arizona."

In a 2019-20 season, Duce finished in the top 25 in six of the team's eight events, including three in the top 10. Yet when the global COVID-19 pandemic cut the Wildcats' season short, Duce was grateful to be offered extended eligibility to return for another senior season in 2021. He gets to showcase his continued growth and maturation as a college golfer in his team's much anticipated spring season while helping the team and staff shape the culture of the program.

"What is so refreshing to see is that Briggs is part of a senior class of Brad (Reeves) and Dave (Laskin) that have been extremely coachable because they establish their own high level of accountability," Anderson continued. "They can help you coach a team because of that."

With the Wildcats set to officially begin the 2021 season, it's the beginning of the end for Duce's journey. A career of maturation, humility and determination.

"Looking back, I am so glad I came to Arizona," Duce reflected. "I remember meeting with Coach Anderson when I started and quickly realized the program's competitive environment really motivated me. It's funny looking back at how naive I was as a freshman, but I learned so much from being surrounded by other great players and being able to compete with and against them. I think it's been a great journey because it started new and fresh with struggles, but it's always trended for the better."