A shift in strategy helped Sean Duckering emerge from a sophomore slump and deliver a superb junior season.
The Buchanan High golfer, who's capable of 350-yard drives, ditched the "grip-it-and-rip-it" approach.
Instead, Duckering emphasized accuracy, even if it meant hitting the ball a little shorter.
The switch helped produce arguably the best results for any golfer in the Central Section this season.
Duckering led the Bears to the Tri-River Athletic Conference title with the league's lowest scoring average, won the Central Section Individual Tournament and was one of 16 in the 124-player field to shoot under par at the CIF Southern California Regional.
"I started focusing on playing smart the whole way," said Duckering, The Bee's Boys Golfer of the Year. "Ever since the seventh grade, I just mashed the ball. But why do you need to go out and fight what you don't have to? I sacrificed maybe 10, 15 yards for hitting it right up the middle."
Duckering decided to tinker with his game after averaging a 15th-best 78.8 strokes over 18 holes during TRAC tournaments last season. He followed that by failing to qualify for the section individual finals after shooting an 82 at the North Area tournament.
Before that, during an All-Bee freshman season, Duckering had a 75.2 TRAC scoring average, won the North Area tournament with a 68 and qualified for the section individual tourney.
"When you've been all-league as a freshman, you're expected to do it all the time," Buchanan coach Greg Funk said. "And when it doesn't happen, you get frustrated and upset, and sometimes that can take over. He had a lot of expectations, and they were too high. He thought he was going to shoot 68 each time he teed it up. And no one does that, not even Tiger Woods."
Duckering started to see his change in approach pay off at the Len Ross Fresno Junior Amateur in March, when he shot a career-low 63 in the third round en route to winning the 16-17 division title.
"I went and thought of all the things I've been working on, and it just clicked and I started playing well," Duckering said. "It ignited me throughout the (prep) season. I started playing smart golf."
From there, Duckering averaged 70.8 strokes in TRAC play, won the section individual title with a 1-over 73 and shot a 1-under 71 at the CIF SoCal Regional, missing out on a berth to the state finals in a playoff.
"He's not like a lot of guys who try to protect their score," Funk said. "He's like Craig Stadler. When he gets rolling he rolls with it, and Sean's the same way. He's not afraid to shoot low."
Duckering set the TRAC record this year with a 65 at Fort Washington. The previous record of 66 was held by former Clovis West standout Michael Weaver and ex-Buchanan star Kevin Chappell, who both competed in the 2013 U.S. Open.
Funk said Duckering has the potential to follow in the footsteps of players such as Weaver, Chappell, and former Clovis East standout Derek Ernst, who all played NCAA Division I golf before launching pro careers.
"That is definitely an inspiration," Duckering said. "Those guys are from here and I see them on TV. That's my dream, to be up there on that stage playing against them."
Golfer of the Year: Sean Duckering
He's qualified because: Captured the Central Section Individual Tournament title with a 1-over 73 at Madera Golf and Country Club. That advanced Duckering to the CIF Southern California Regional, where he shot a 1-under 71 and missed qualifying for the CIF State Championships in a playoff. Was the Tri-River Athletic Conference Player of the Year, averaging 70.8 strokes per round while leading the Bears to the title. Was a Bee All-Star in 2011.
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