ATHENS, Ga. -- Ball State women’s golfer Autumn Duke was presented Friday night with the Kim Moore Spirit Award at a banquet following the conclusion of the NCAA Division I Women’s Golf Championships.
The award, given each year by the Women’s Golf Coaches Association, recognizes a student-athlete or coach in each NCAA division who exemplifies a great spirit toward the game of golf, maintains a positive attitude on and off the course, serves as a role model for her team and demonstrates mental toughness in facing challenges.
Duke did each of those things in her senior year while having to deal with the untimely death of her father just as the season was beginning. Larry Duke, not only Autumn’s father but also her swing coach and a beloved figure by all in the Ball State women’s golf family, died tragically on his daughter’s birthday in September after a motorcycle accident.
Autumn made the decision to play in Ball State’s own Cardinal Classic just two days after the funeral and responded by honoring her father with the best tournament of her career. She tied for fifth place, just two shots out of the lead, as Ball State won the tournament for the man everyone affectionately referred to simply as “Duke.”
“Autumn is a phenomenal young woman whose courage and fortitude are gifts from a higher power,” Ball State coach Katherine Mowat said. “She demonstrated true courage, strength and perseverance all year in the face of tremendous adversity, and she continues to inspire everyone around her.”
Duke, a team captain from Fishers, Ind., went on to help Ball State to one of its best seasons ever as the Cardinals tied the program record with four tournament victories. Individually, she posted five top-20 finishes, including a 13th-place showing at the Mid-American Conference Championships in the final event of her college career.
She continued to excel in the classroom, as well, finishing the year with a 3.59 cumulative GPA, including a 3.8 mark during that challenging fall semester.
Duke received her award Friday at a ceremony in Athens, where she, along with her mother Judy and Mowat, watched Friday’s final round of the NCAA Championships.
“I am honored to receive the award,” Duke said. “I appreciate Coach Mowat nominating me. I had a wonderful time being at the NCAAs and watching amazing golf. It was an experience I will never forget.”
The Spirit Award, given every year since 2005, is named in honor of former University of Indianapolis women’s golfer Kim Moore, who persevered through many physical challenges while playing collegiate golf. Moore was known for her positive outlook, her sense of humor and her dedication and passion for the game.
Nominations for the award are submitted by coaches from across the country with the requirements that their nominees must be of high moral character, hold good standing at their university and actively participate within the guidelines of the golf program.