Coming off its third NCAA Championship, the Blue Devils entered the 2005-06 campaign ranked No. 1 nationally for the seventh time over the last eight years. This lofty recognition came even though Duke featured a roster of only five golfers for the second straight year and the Blue Devils had to replace two key team members who combined for 18 top-20 finishes a year ago-senior Niloufar Aazam-Zanganeh and sophomore Brittany Lang.
Duke was not short on talent though as three-time All-America Liz Janangelo, 2005 NCAA Individual Champion Anna Grzebien and ACC Rookie of the Year Jennifer Pandolfi returned to anchor the Blue Devils. Head Coach Dan Brooks once again reloaded the roster with two American Junior Golf Association (AJGA) All-America selections - Amanda Blumenherst and Jennie Lee - and the five-member team was one to be reckoned with.
The Blue Devils opened the season with a three-stroke victory at the Mason Rudolph Championship in September as Blumenherst kick-started her collegiate career with a five-stroke record-breaking performance. The Scottsdale, Ariz., product took home medalist honors with a 54-hole total of 208 and became the second Duke freshman to win her first college tournament. Her three-day total of 208 was a Duke freshman record and she won the tournament by a commanding five strokes.
Over the next two tournaments, Duke took home team titles at the Tar Heel Invitational and the Stanford Pepsi Women's Intercollegiate, which supplanted themselves atop all the national rankings. At the Stanford Pepsi Intercollegiate, the Blue Devils had one of the best performances in women's golf history, registering a school-record 54-hole total of
834, which was propelled by a school-record final round of 271 to win by 27 strokes over second-ranked UCLA.
Janangelo collected her seventh career victory with a school-record 54-hole ledger of 202 with rounds of 70, 67 and 65 to lead the Blue Devils to the impressive victory. Blumenherst continued her stellar start to her collegiate career with her ninth straight round of even or under par, which was also a new school record.
With the victory, Brooks became the all-time winningest women's golf coach in Division I history with his 92nd career victory passing San Jose State's Mark Gale.
"The milestone is something that I didn't really think about much," said Brooks. "When I reflect on it I am most excited about the great student-athletes that I've been associated with. I am blessed to be associated with an excellent school to coach at and with the student-athletes that choose to come and play for us."
Duke closed out the fall with a second place finish at the Auburn Derby Invitational as the host Tigers nipped the Blue Devils by one stroke at the Auburn University Club.
In the spring, the Blue Devils opened with a second place finish at the Arizona Wildcat Invitational and a third place outcome at the California Guadalajara Invitational. It marked the first time since the 1999-2000 campaign that Duke had gone three straight tournaments without winning an event.
The so-called drought wouldn't last long as the Blue Devils traveled to Austin, Texas for the Longhorn Invitational in March and picked up a nine-stroke victory over Texas A&M to win their fourth tournament of the season. Duke was led by Blumenherst, who garnered her second collegiate victory with rounds of 72, 74 and 72 for a total of 218.
Duke entered its final regular season tournament at the Bryan National Collegiate with only four golfers as Grzebien traveled out west for the LPGA Kraft Nabisco Championship. The foursome hung in with the other 16 squads, but ended up finishing second to Georgia by five strokes. All four Duke golfers finished in the top-13 of the individual race.
The Blue Devils went on to claim their 11th straight and 14th overall ACC crown to kick off the postseason led by Blumenherst's third win of the season. She became the 12th Duke golfer to win the individual championship, seventh Blue Devil freshman to win the title and seventh Duke golfer out of the last eight years to win the individual crown.
For the first time in the 22-year coaching career of Brooks, the Blue Devils were faced with adversity for the NCAA Regionals. Duke was shipped out of the East Region for the first time in school history and had to travel to Bryan, Texas for the NCAA Central Regional. The Blue Devils faced a very challenging course and ended with their fourth
second-place finish of the season to Southern California by two strokes.
Entering the NCAA Championship, the Blue Devils had been ranked atop the national polls for the entire season, but Duke was not the favorite to win the title. Most media members were saying the field was the most wide open in recent years and were picking Southern California, Purdue, Auburn and UCLA to take home the prestigious title.
Duke opened the championship with a nine-over-par round of 297 and sat tied for fifth, which was six shots out of the lead held by Southern California. The Blue Devils were led by Lee and Pandolfi with rounds of 73 and were tied for 10th in the individual race.
On the second day, the Blue Devils teed off early in the morning and would conclude the day with a team-best round of 292, led by Janangelo's one-under-par, 71. Duke left the course in the afternoon with Arizona State leading the field by double-digits, but the Sun Devils faltered over the final five holes going 11-over-par and held only a three stroke lead over Duke with 36 holes remaining.
For the second straight year, the third round would be moving day for the Blue Devils. Duke teed off at 1:20 p.m. and by 3:15 p.m. the Blue Devils held their first lead of the tournament and wouldn't look back. Duke carded a team-best one-under-par, 287, and went from being down three shots to holding a 13-shot advantage going into the final round at the 6,203-yard, par 72 Ohio State Golf Club Scarlet Course.
All five of Duke's golfers shot 74 or better led by Blumenherst's two-under-par, 70, and Janangelo's second straight card of 71, to catapult the Blue Devils to the top.
"I couldn't be happier with the round today," said Brooks. "The wind was blowing, the greens were hard and the greens are starting to look like a course that is new. I really had a composed team today and they seemed to be thinking well. Whenever I had a little input for them on the par threes, they took it and took advantage of it."
Heading into the final round, Duke held a three-day total of 876 with Southern California (889) and Pepperdine (894) expected to be the Blue Devils' top challengers on Friday.
Duke remained steady on the final day battling through an early weather delay to cruise to its fourth NCAA Championship by 10 strokes over Southern California. The Blue Devils posted a final round 291 and registered a 72-hole total of 1,167.
"I was never really scared to lose the team lead," said Brooks. "We had a solid lead coming into today. Once we got through hole four I thought we had a lot of momentum and I was really confident. I have been at Duke a long time and this is a great win for the university."
Lee, who had gone home prior to the championship to get lessons from her instructor, capped off her improbable run with a final round of 71 to finish second individually with an even-par 288. Grzebien and Pandolfi collected rounds of 73 on the final day to pace the five-member Blue Devil squad who was given key production from all five golfers during the championship run.
Duke became the first team since Arizona State in 1997 and 1998 to win back-to-back championships and the first sports program at Duke University to win four National Championships.
Blumenherst concluded her stellar season with a ninth-place finish at the NCAA Championship and totaled one of the best seasons in Duke women's golf history with a 71.62 stroke average, three victories, nine top-five, 11 top-10 and a school-record 24 rounds of even or under par.
At the National Golf Coaches Association (NGCA) banquet, Blumenherst took home the Eleanor Dudley College Player of the Year, National Freshman of the Year, Golfstat Cup and the Edith Cummings Munson Golf Award as the top All-America with the highest grade-point-average. Also at the banquet, Janangelo was presented with her fourth straight first team All-America honor joining only Virada Nirapathpongporn as four-time first team All-Americas in Duke history, while Grzebien earned first team All-America and Lee Honorable Mention All-America citations.