“If you love what you do, it turns into doing what you love.”
That’s what former LPGA player Meredith Duncan says about her job as a physical education teacher – and the boys’ and girls’ golf coach – at C.E. Byrd High School in Shreveport, La.
Last week, she led the Yellow Jackets to not one, but two LHSAA Division I state championships. The 39-year-old took over the boys’ team last fall, and has been coaching the girls since 2015.
This was the boys’ fifth title in six years, but it was the first team title for the girls.
“I don’t necessarily know if I’m breaking any barriers as a female coach, but there’s not a lot of women coaching boys,” Duncan said. “I know there are a couple but I played on tour and played around the world doing all things related to golf. I think I can relate to them and a lot of what the boys want to do.
“I think I have a unique perspective for both the boys and the girls.”
On the boys’ side, after a tough start that left them 15 shots back, Byrd’s young men shot a combined 2-under 286 in the final round – 22 shots better than their round one performance – to win the title by six shots at The Wetlands in Lafayette, La.
In Youngsville, a 25-minute drive from Lafayette, the girls also won their state title in come-from-behind fashion, shooting 41-over-par total at Les Vieux Chenes Golf Course.
Two titles in two different spots provided some logistical challenges for the coach, but Duncan coordinated as well as anyone. A career on tour teaches you to juggle.
“I was with the girls in the morning on Tuesday,” Duncan said. “We shook hands, took pictures, thanked everybody and hustled into the car and over to the boys. We caught the last three or four holes to see the boys win. Did the same thing with (the girls) before going home.”
Duncan was a successful amateur player while at LSU, winning the 2001 U.S. Women’s Amateur, the Women’s Western Amateur and the Women’s North & South Amateur in a three-month span – the most impressive run of any amateur in the country at the time. Then she made the jump to the mini tours in 2002 and joined the LPGA in 2004.
But the transition from amateur superstar to the professional ranks proved difficult. “Duncs,” as most of her friends call her, managed to earn a little more than $250,000 in a span of nine years. It wasn’t sustainable to travel around the world chasing a little white ball.
In 2012, with little money and back problems, she didn’t know what to do.
Like a lot of people at the end of a career rope, Duncan found her way back home, in Shreveport, where she was known and loved. One of her old Byrd High School classmates asked if she wanted to help coach the girls’ basketball team. She did and fell into a happy routine.
A few years later, after Duncan earned her physical education degree online, two of the basketball players asked her if she would be the girls’ golf coach.
“With their help, I started to rekindle my love for the game,” Duncan admitted.
“They are never going to be in a situation that I’ve never been in. I’ve been ahead in tournaments, I’ve been behind in tournaments; I’ve been in first, I’ve been in last; and everywhere in between.” – Meredith Duncan
Coaching both teams this season took up most of her time, but Duncan couldn’t say enough about her players’ drive and motivation on and off the course.
She’s able to talk about her LPGA experiences with both teams, able to relate her stories to help them with their own battles on the course.
“Most of the time, I’ll tell them stories about the tournaments I’ve played in where I’m trying to come from behind (to win), or when I had adversity. Or sometimes all it takes is a little joke to lighten the mood,” she said.
“But I’ve told them this before: They are never going to be in a situation that I’ve never been in. I’ve been ahead in tournaments, I’ve been behind in tournaments; I’ve been in first, I’ve been in last; and everywhere in between. I can’t be in their minds, but I can tell them how they should react and that can help them stay in the moment.”
Duncan said that if you ask the players what’s more interesting about her – that she played on the LPGA Tour for nine seasons or that she’s verified on Twitter – nine out of 10 times, the players are more excited about the Twitter verification.
Now, Duncan couldn’t be happier with how her life has turned out. She doesn’t even consider coaching and teaching a “job.”
“At our year-end banquet the other night, I told the kids, ‘Not everyone can do what they love,’” she said. “So, I changed the quote ‘If you love what you do, you’ll never work a day in your life’ a little bit. I said, ‘If you love what you do, it turns into doing what you love.’ Not every ‘job’ is perfect. I don’t feel like I have a ‘job’ because I love what I do.
“And it has nothing to do with me – it has everything to do with the people I work with and the people I’m surrounded by that make it so great. They allow me to love what I do. And that’s a true testament to them.”
Top photo: Meredith Duncan (left), Gillian Cole, Alexis Lee and Sydney Moss proudly pose with their state-title trophy.
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