FORT WORTH, Texas -- Junior Chandler Eaton rolled in a long birdie putt on the 18th hole Tuesday to secure the individual title, and No. 9 Duke also claimed the team championship as the Nike Golf Collegiate Invitational concluded at the Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas.
The Blue Devils were the only team in the field of 15 programs, seven of which were ranked, to finish under par. Duke was one-under 279 on Tuesday, finishing the 54-hole event with a two-under par 838. It is the second consecutive team title for Duke, which also claimed the Louisville Collegiate in September.
With the win, it marks the fifth consecutive season the team has won multiple team events in the same year.
“We’re thrilled for our guys, they played with such poise,” said head coach Jamie Green. “They earned this feeling and these trophies from hole 1 to the 54th. We had to come from behind after the first day and that’s the mark of a really good team. These guys have bounce-back rounds in them. They play with great confidence, no matter the position they’re in and that’s really something special.”
Though Duke had all but secured the team trophy, finishing six strokes clear of No. 16 Vanderbilt, Eaton won his second career title with some drama on the 18th green. With Eaton at five-under in the fairway on 18, Clemson’s Bryson Nimmer birdied the 18th to draw even with the Blue Devil junior.
But Eaton knocked his second shot on the green, then snaked in long birdie bid to claim the outright championship. The birdies for Eaton came on holes No. 1, 9, 10 and 18 as he carded his second straight three-under 67 to post a 54-hole total of six-under 204.
“I am so proud of how we battled on this golf course,” said Eaton. “Winning this tournament as an individual and as a team is such a huge honor, it is probably the hardest regular season event to win and we were able to get it done. This was probably the hardest but most rewarding day of my life and I can’t thank my teammates, coaches, and family enough. Colonial tests every part of your game.”
Of Eaton’s nine rounds this season, eight consecutive have been played at or below par. He is 18-under in the stretch.
“Chandler’s got a great demeanor and mindset for this type of course,” said Green. “He plays with a lot of calm confidence. To others he may appear reserved, but there’s a fire in there, don’t doubt it. He just knows himself so well and continues to grow as a player because of staying true to his personality. Often you can’t tell if he’s four-over or four-under. You really have to think your way around this course, and execute all the way into the cup on every hole to succeed and he did that, beautifully!”
Senior Alex Smalley bounced back from a 74 in the opening round, to shoot rounds of 66 and 68 and finish tied for fifth at two-under 208. He had clutch birdies on the 16th and 17th Tuesday as Duke held off the late charge from Vandy.
“It was another huge week for us,” said Smalley. “I got off to a solid start today by getting through the tough holes early. I had a couple bad mistakes for the round but was able to bounce back every time with a birdie which kept the momentum going. It got a little close on the back but I made two really good putts on 16 and 17 to finish strong and post a score. We are in a good spot right now as a team and we are going to keep working for the next tournament."
Sophomore Evan Katz shot a final-round 71 and finished the tournament at one-over 211, which was good for a tie for 15th -- his seventh career top-20 finish. Classmate Adrien Pendaries closed with a 73 and his total of 215 was tied for 29th. Sophomore Qi wen Wong posted a 234 for the tournament and was tied for 74th.
The top five teams in the field included No. 9 Duke (838, -2), No. 16 Vanderbilt (844, +4), Wake Forest (846, +6), No. 13 Clemson (847, +7) and No. 8 Texas (850, +10).
The Blue Devils are back in Durham for their annual alumni event this weekend, the Blue Devil Cup, before heading to Eaton’s hometown of Alpharetta, Ga., for the Golf Club of Georgia Collegiate Championship Oct. 19-21.