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Up by the sloping green he gave a demonstration of how balls release from the right side. Coach Nick Clinard stood on the back of the green, observing. "You wouldn't know any of this from the tee," he said. "We're lucky and blessed that a player of his stature cares so much. I think a lot of guys love their alma mater, but how many really give their time, which is their most precious commodity?"
The players call him Duf or Dufner, and his trust in their games is absolute; he often strolled down the fairway as shots whizzed directly over his head. "Dufner's such a regular guy," says senior Will McCurdy. "He always makes us feel comfortable."
Maybe so, but the Tigers clearly are in awe of the ninth-ranked player in the world. McCurdy's mom, Susan Hawkins, was snapping photos as she followed the practice round. "Will told me to take as many as possible with him and Dufner in the same frame," Susan said. "He's still a little starstruck."
Throughout the round Dufner was an upbeat presence, often dispensing compliments. He drew guffaws with his understated commentary on errant shots.
"Thanks for playing."
A lot of time was spent deconstructing the grabby kikuyu grass that frames the greens. From a collection area left of the 7th green, junior Blayne Barber shouted, "Hey, Dufner, if you're here and the pin's there, you don't think you can land it here?"