FRANKLIN, Tenn. - The fifth-ranked Duke women’s golf team carded an opening-round of one-over-par, 289, at the 2012 NCAA Championship and sits in third place with 54-holes remaining at the 6,377-yard, par 72 Vanderbilt Legends Golf Club in Franklin, Tenn.
After snapping a 13-year streak of advancing to the NCAA Championship a year ago, the Blue Devils provided a solid first round, which included a tied for second-best opening 18 for Duke in the championship since 1998. The Blue Devils have posted only four rounds in the 280s over the last six championship appearances for Duke.
Taking the lead after 18 holes was Alabama with a two-under-par, 286, and leads by two strokes over Virginia (288). Rounding out the top 10 is Duke (289), North Carolina (290), UCLA (292), Arizona State (292), Purdue (293), LSU (293), Oklahoma (294) and Michigan State (296).
“I don’t think it is essential, but it is a nice thing to have,” commented Duke head coach Dan Brooks on getting a good start at NCAA Championships. “You can take a little comfort from it.”
Immediately following Tuesday’s round, Virginia held a six-under-par, 282, team ledger but Elizabeth Brightwell of the Cavaliers signed for the wrong score and was disqualified. This dropped Virginia’s score to an even-par, 288.
As a team, Duke posted 11 birdies on the day and played the final six holes at seven-under-par. Over those final six holes, the Blue Devils notched four birdies and one eagle.
Leading the Duke charge in the first round was the top-ranked golfer in the nation Lindy Duncan, who carded a two-under-par, 70, and is tied for ninth overall. A native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Duncan got off to a shaky start with two bogeys over her first seven holes. She started to get things going after draining a six-foot birdie putt on No. 17 as she went on to make the turn at one-over, 37.
After making a bogey on the 384-yard, par four first hole, Duncan started dialing it in. She drained a two-inch birdie putt on No. 2 and then registered four straight pars. On the second hole, she hit her wedge from 70-yards to inches from cup. Duncan, who is a two-time first team All-America and three-time ACC Player of the Year selection, then hit her drive on the 504-yard, par five seventh hole near the trees on the right and was forced to punch out down the fairway. She stuck her approach to within two feet and sank her third birdie of the day.
“Yeah, very good,” commented Duncan on her finishing three-under-par the final three holes. “It was kind of a struggle all day. Coming into the front nine, I knew there was going to be some opportunities on the par fives. I made a birdie on hole seven and then luckily eagled nine so that really helped. Anytime you get off too a good start and you are not to far behind the leaders is good. It is really important to keep pace with them.”
Duncan came up short on No. 8 and holed a key five-footer for par to remain at even par heading into the 455-yard, par five ninth hole. She bombed a drive and had only 210 yards to the green. Duncan hit her hybrid to the front of the green and rolled to within 15 feet. She went on to drain her fifth eagle of the season to give her a two-under-par, 70, on the day. On the morning, she hit nine fairways, 12 greens and had a team-best 29 putts.
“Well, let me tell you, when Lindy [Duncan] made that putt [on No. 9 for eagle], that was key. We had a lot of good things that happened, but we needed some putts to fall,” said Brooks. “This is the national championship and you cannot afford to miss a lot of those little putts. That was pretty important to get us in position tomorrow.”
In the individual action, Duncan trails first round leader Portland Rosen of Virginia by four strokes. Rosen shot a 66 and leads by one stroke over Purdue’s Laura Gonzalez (67).
“I hope so,” said Duncan on the finishing giving her momentum going into tomorrow. “It was kind of a struggle, a little shaky in the beginning. But I did a good job of hanging in there. Anytime you can score well is really exciting.”
Continuing her stellar play was junior Stacey Kim, who carded her third straight round of even-par, 72. She sits tied for 19th overall in the individual action. Kim, who is a product of Columbus, Ga., had a solid start with a par on No. 10 and then sank a three-foot birdie putt on No. 11 to move to one-under-par. She had a bogey on the 12th hole, but went on to play the next six holes at one-under-par, with a birdie on the 321-yard, par four 17th hole as she stuck her approach to one foot. Kim had a key up and down on 390-yard, par four 13th hole, after having a 30-yard chip from off the green.
Kim had a tough stretch on No. 1 and No. 2 as she picked up bogeys, but settled down to play the final seven holes at one-under-par. She notched her third birdie of the day on the 143-yard, par three fifth hole as she chipped in from 25 feet with her 60-degree wedge. Kim hit 14 greens, 11 fairways and had 31 putts.
After having to withdraw from the NCAA East Regional with an elbow injury, Alejandra Cangrejo returned to the lineup on Tuesday and continued her solid play with an even-par, 72. She featured Duke’s best start on the day as she was two-under-par through six with birdies on the 11th and 15 holes. Cangrejo, who is from Bogota, Colombia, sank a nine-footer for birdie on the 11th hole and rolled in a 25-footer on No. 15.
“If we could get her on the golf course playing then yeah I could imagine something good happening because she has been playing really well,” said Brooks on having Cangrejo back in the lineup. “That is why she wanted to play so bad.”
She struggled over the next six holes with three bogeys and three pars to drop to one-over-par. All three of her bogeys were off three-putts. Cangrejo closed strong with five consecutive pars before hitting her approach shot on No. 9 to three feet and sinking the birdie putt. On the day, she featured a team-high 34 putts, while hitting a team-best 16 greens and 10 fairways. Her 16 greens in regulation is a career-best for the sophomore.
“She is out there playing with an injury that really, really hurt,” said Brooks. “The doctor said it was like hitting your funny bone with a hammer. She is out there with the courage to play. That is really tough.”
Playing in her second career NCAA Championship, junior Courtney Ellenbogen turned in a three-over-par, 75, on Tuesday and sits tied for 47th. The top finisher for the Blue Devils at the 2010 NCAA Championship, Ellenbogen was solid all day except for a four-hole stretch in the opening nine where she went bogey, bogey, par and double-bogey to drop to four-over-par.
A native of Blacksburg, Va., Ellenbogen regrouped and played her final 11 holes at one-under-par to close with a 75. She sank her only birdie of the day on the 324-yard, par four second hole as she rolled in a 14-footer. Ellenbogen hit 11 greens, eight fairways and had 31 putts on the day. Prior to the NCAA East Regional, Ellenbogen featured a 77.48 stroke average, but over the last four rounds has dialed in a 74.25 average.
After struggling in regional action to close out rounds, Laetitia Beck had the opposite in the first round on Tuesday. Beck, a sophomore from Caesarea, Israel, was six-over-par through eight holes but was able to settle down and play her final 10 holes at even par to finish with a 78. She carded her only birdie on her final hole as she sank a seven-footer at No. 9. Beck posted nine greens, six fairways and had 32 putts on the day, but she hit her final seven greens in regulation to close.
Duke will tee off on Wednesday in the second round beginning at 11:50 a.m., on hole No. 1 along with North Carolina and N.C. State.
“I thought the course was fantastic,” said Brooks. “The greens are really good. They are firm but they are not crazy. You just have to be smart. There are not a whole lot of impossible shots, but there are a lot of shots that are very, very challenging.”
• Lindy Duncan’s five eagles this season is the most by a Blue Devil in a single season since the 2007-08 campaign when Amanda Blumenherst tallied five.
• Stacey Kim has notched three straight rounds of even-par, 72, and now has totaled six rounds of even or under par on the season. She has posted four of those even or under par rounds in the last three tournaments. Kim is making her second appearance in the NCAA Championship, after posting a tied for 110th place finish in 2010.
• Alejandra Cangrejo was one of only seven golfers to birdie the 403-yard, par four 15th hole.
• Duke was a combined 6-over-par on the 154-yard, par three 17th hole.
• The last time Duke was in the top five after round one was in 2010 as the Blue Devils were tied for third. Duke ended up finishing tied for eighth in Wilmington, N.C.