By Charlotte Tannebaum, Duke Athletics Communications Student Assistant
DURHAM – Transitioning to college is a difficult task for any student, but for a student-athlete adjusting to a new team, a busy schedule and a collegiate workload, it’s an especially daunting feat. Luckily, freshman Katie Li isn’t one to back down from a challenge. As the women’s golf team’s sole freshman, Li has taken her first semester at Duke in stride and is setting herself up for a successful four years as a Blue Devil.
Li is no stranger to competition. Even before college, she trained rigorously and competed as one of the nation’s best junior golfers. As a high schooler, the New Jersey native racked up a number of titles and impressive finishes competing on courses all over the country. Her stellar performances have not gone unrecognized: Li is a four-time American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) All-American, a prestigious designation she has held since 2020.
Li has spent years perfecting her technical skills on the green. But when she first arrived in Durham, she realized she needed to modify her mindset to keep her game up to par.
“A lot of parts of my game didn’t feel right,” Li said. “I was adjusting to school and had a lot of things coming at me. It was a rough time at first for my golf game and I wasn’t expecting it.”
After competing at a high level for so long, Li hadn’t anticipated that the college transition would impact her playing. But the freshman didn’t get discouraged and quickly came to understand that transition periods mark integral chapters in any athlete’s story. Li kept working hard until she felt her game click back into place.
“After I realized, ‘this is totally fine, this is normal,’ I started getting back into the groove of things,” Li said.
Ultimately, this marked a period of growth for Li on and off the course.
“As the season progressed, I became a more confident person and a mentally stronger person,” says Li.
Her teammates and coaches played a big role in the adjustment process. The tight-knit team environment has functioned as a source of motivation and support for Li throughout her freshman season.
“When I go out to play, it’s not like I play for myself anymore,” Li said. “Whatever I do represents the school. It’s added pressure, but because I’m on a team, I have four to five other girls…