His golfing experience started in a virtual fashion, but in reality, Michael Duch has shown he can finish as a champion.
As a youngster, Duch wasn’t interested in the sport until he and an uncle, Blair Smith, played a Tiger Woods video game. Duch then played golf for real, and discovered he was good at it.
“I started playing (the video) and got hooked on it, and made plans to play in Arizona where my grandma lives,” said Duch, whose family spends Christmas in the Grand Canyon state .
The Roncalli senior put the finishing touches on a spectacular season at the State A high school golf tournament. Duch had a two-day total of 148 to win the individual title by three strokes, and became Roncalli’s first male individual golf champion in school history, helping the Cavaliers to a third-place finish. For his efforts, Duch is the American News Athlete of the Week.
Keeping his mind on what he was doing was a bit difficult for Duch near the end of the final round.
“I knew going to the last hole (I was winning),” said Duch. “I tried for the whole day not to let myself think I might win. I kind of made a mess of (hole) 18, but played par on 35 of 36 holes.”
Along with his own game, Duch also had his teammates on his mind and knew he had to perform well individually to help the Cavaliers.
“I didn’t know where the team stood and I had kind of an awkward shot off the tee,” Duch said. “I kind of went after a silly shot and after that it was a battle to get into the hole.”
Duch said his chipping turned out to be an important part of his game. During the second day, Duch hit pins twice and ended up with manageable par tap-ins. Facing windy conditions on Tuesday, Duch used his skills to counter them.
“When I got to the range, I was hitting warm-up shots and tried not to think about it too much,” he said. “I have the ability to hit low shots into the green and the wind doesn’t affect them much.”
Duch, 18, won seven individual tournament titles on the way to his state championship. Roncalli coach Keith Hurley said Duch puts multiple talents to good use on the course.
“Michael possesses the ability to hit the golf ball very long and he has combined this asset with short games skills and course management,” said Hurley.
A member of the varsity since seventh grade, Hurley noted that Duch has been a solid contributor to a golf program whose tradition runs deep. With that experience, Duch has the respect of his teammates.
“Michael is looked up to by our younger players and has been a role model to them in work ethic, what it takes to improve, and most importantly, how to conduct one’s self on and off the course,” Hurley said.
Among pro golfers, Duch feels his game resembles the style of Phil Mickelson.
“I feel I play a similar game to his,” Duch said. “I see shots that others don’t necessarily see. Either it turns out great or horrible.”
Last week at Hartford, the results definitely pointed more toward great.
Family: Parents, Michael and Rosemary Duch; sisters Michelle (24) and Micaela (20).
Hobbies: Hunting, working on his truck.
Future plans: “Want to pursue playing golf in college, not sure where yet.”
If I could play a round with any pro golfer, it would be: “John Daly. It seems he’d be a fun guy on and off the course, and not be too competitive. He can really smack the ball hard.”
Favorite course: “Faulkton. It’s only nine holes and par 34, but it has its own little ambiance.”
Favorite athletic memory: “Last year at the region tournament, I defeated the two-time defending champion Ryan Medhaug in a playoff.”