POZ'S POINTS: Golfer courageous for playing just days after father's death
Duke lost father on Sept. 16, day of her 22nd birthday
We often tend to take life for granted. We fail to realize just how precious life truly is. Instead, we narrow our focus on other endeavors, such as sports.
But what happens when life is altered by an inexplicable tragedy, forcing you to make tough decisions about your very next move?
That's the harsh reality Autumn Duke, senior captain of the Ball State women's golf team, has been dealing with for the past 12 days.
Duke lost her father, Larry, in a motorcycle accident on Sept. 16, the day she celebrated her 22nd birthday. Imagining what Duke went through and continues to go through each and every day is excruciating and nearly impossible to comprehend.
To many, Duke's father was known as a "gentle giant," a person who always supported everyone and never had anything bad to say about anyone.
"[He was a] big teddy bear," Duke said. "He was always happy."
If dealing with the loss of her father and "best friend" wasn't enough to put things into perspective, Duke informed coach Katherine Mowat that she intended to compete in the Cardinal Classic tournament Saturday and Sunday.
Duke could've stepped away from golf, taking time to spend with her family and friends. Instead, she pressed on, because she wanted to.
Under the same circumstances, many wouldn't have even been able to fathom the possibility of competing after suffering so much heartbreak. But Duke didn't let anything deter her from playing not only for her team, but also in the memory of her father.
To say Duke was courageous would be a drastic understatement. She was lifted by her father's spirit and had the will and determination to keep playing.
She's an idol in my book.
And the way Duke carried herself on the golf course six days after the loss of her father was uplifting. She didn't just compete; she shot rounds of 78-75 to tie for fifth, a career-high finish.
Duke is one of those heroes everyone should look up to. Her story reminds me of Tiger Woods' father, Earl Woods, who passed away in 2006 after a long and taxing battle with prostate cancer.
"I'm here to compete and try to win," Woods told the United Kingdom's Daily Mail in June 2006.
That's the same mindset Duke had over the weekend when she stepped onto the golf course.
In a sport where mental focus outweighs physical focus along with playing for hours at a time, imagining the thoughts and emotions flying through Duke's mind is unthinkable.
For Duke to continue playing the sport both her and her father had in common is something special. It's as if her father remains right by her side, no matter what.
"Thanks for that one, dad," Duke would say, after finding a splash of luck on the golf course.
Duke's story is both moving and inspirational, and it should make every one of us realize how dear life really is.