RALEIGH, N.C. – For the second straight year, Duke men’s golf will be advancing to the NCAA Championship after finishing second in the NCAA Regional. The Blue Devils needed a strong round on Wednesday to seal the deal and they got just that, posting a seven-under 277 to finish at 22-under (830) for the event.
Having finished last year’s Baton Rouge Regional at 10-over, this year’s second-place finish came with far less difficulty, as Duke found ways to successfully navigate the challenging Lonnie Poole Golf Course over the span of all three rounds.
Alex Smalley’s five-under third round proved to be a major difference-maker for the Blue Devils, as the junior opened up his day with five birdies within his first six holes.
Down the stretch, Smalley nailed a birdie-eagle sequence on 14 and 15, ensuring that Duke’s position on the leaderboard would not slip.
For the tournament, the Wake Forest, N.C. native finished at six-under.
“We played regionals my freshman year at Oklahoma State where the championships are this year,” said Smalley. “Jake and I were the two who were on the team at that time. I think we’re looking forward to getting back there and giving that course another chance. Obviously, it means a lot to go back to the championships because it’s pretty difficult to get there in the first place, so it’ll be fun. We’ve got another week and a half to prepare.”
Freshman Adrien Pendaries showed great poise all week, wrapping up his effort with an impressive three-under 68. Starting and ending the round with a birdie, Pendaries tallied five in total on the day. The three-under performance gave Pendaries three consecutive rounds in the red.
Pendaries addressed his feelings regarding the team’s advancement following the round.
“It’s exciting. We were all very excited when we finished up. I’m super proud of the guys. We fought hard. It’s not a given to get into the National Championship…I think we managed what we could manage this week very, very well. We did a good job of staying patient and being aggressive when we could. We’re all ecstatic at the idea of playing for a National Championship.”
Signing for an even 71 on Wednesday was sophomore Chandler Eaton, keeping him at three-under for the tournament. Eaton—who was bogeyless on the front nine and snared a birdie in the process—went on to card three bogeys and another two birdies on the back to balance out his score.
Jake Shuman rounded out the afternoon with a 72 (+1), recording par eight straight times after beginning the morning with a bogey. After the turn, the senior would go birdie-bogey on 12 and 13 and then bogey-birdie on 16 and 17. Overall, Shuman would finish tied with teammate Smalley at six-under.
Freshman Evan Katz concluded his week with a five-over 76 that featured a birdie on 17. He would finish his first-ever regional tournament at four-over.
Final Leaderboard Rankings:
This will mark the third trip to the NCAA Championship in four years for the Blue Devils, having most recently participated in the event at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove Ill. last year.
It was there that Duke would go on to post an 888 (298-292-298, +24) to finish the week at 22nd.
Head coach Jamie Green is already looking forward to his players getting the chance to redeem themselves at nationals after performing so strongly this postseason in both the ACC Championship and NCAA Regional.
“I feel good about our chances,” said Green. “I know what talents they have from tee to green. [Karsten Creek] is a great championship venue. We’ve had a little success there historically in 2011 as a program. I’m thrilled for them. We’re looking forward to the next step.”
The NCAA Championship is slated to take place from May 25-30 at Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla.
Live scoring will be available via golfstatresults.com.