GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Playing in her final NCAA Regional, Duke senior Jennie Lee got off to a strong start on Thursday in the first round at the 6,044-yard, par 70 Mark Bostick Golf Course at the University of Florida in Gainesville, Fla.
Lee turned in a one-over-par, 71, in round one at the NCAA East Regional and is tied for 14th heading into day two. As a team, Duke opened the round on hole 10 and Lee registered six straight pars to start her day. A product of Henderson, Nev., Lee closed her first nine holes with a bogey on No. 16, par on No. 17 and rolled in a 15-foot birdie putt on the 380-yard, par four 18th hole to make the turn at even-par, 35.
“I tried really hard to be creative out there today,” said Lee. “It is really tough with the Donald Ross greens; you just can’t chip from everywhere. I made pretty good use with my putter off the green and I think that helped a lot, especially with up-and-downs and saving par.”
On the final nine holes, Lee could not get up and down on No. 1 for a bogey, but came back to stick her approach shot within two feet to move back to even par. A four-time All-ACC selection, Lee suffered a rare bogey on a par five (No. 3), but rang off six consecutive pars to finish with a 71. Lee was solid all day around the green making key up-and-downs to save par. For the round, she hit 12 greens, 13 fairways and had 30 putts.
“On hole seven, I hit a really bad chip but I got a pretty good break and it rolled down there until about three feet,” said Lee. “I took advantage of it and I just said ‘stay focused -- every shot is going to count’. So I just had to make that putt. It was the same on No. 8 as I was thinking in my head -- I went through my whole bag as I didn’t know what I was going to hit. I hit a good shot with my putter to within about three feet so that was really good.”
As a team, Duke sits 10th with an 18-over-par, 298, as the Blue Devils are out of eight place by only six shots. The 37th-ranked team nationally, East Carolina, took the day one lead with an impressive three-over-par, 283, while Alabama (284), Vanderbilt (286), Denver (287), Virginia (290), North Carolina (291), Tulane (292), Tennessee (292), Georgia (297) and Duke rounding out the top 10.
Leading the individual play is a duo from East Carolina -- Abby Bools and Ana Maria Puche -- who each turned in a two-under-par, 68.
“The one benefit to having an off year is that it kind of toughens you up and you don’t get shocked when you have an off day,” said Duke Head Coach Dan Brooks. “You are a little more ready to keep your chin up and keep fighting. There are still possibilities -- we have been here before.“
Junior Alison Whitaker turned in a five-over-par, 75, and enters Friday tied for 40th, after hitting nine greens, 10 fairways and notching 31 putts. A native of Melbourne, Australia, Whitaker had three bogeys and six pars as she made the turn with a three-over-par, 38. She opened the final nine with a 16-foot birdie putt, which was her lone birdie of the day. Whitaker struggled the next four holes with three bogeys and a par before closing the afternoon with four consecutive pars. She got up-and-down 4-of-9 times in her round.
Both sophomore Kim Donovan and junior Yu Young Lee each had a six-over-par, 76, on Thursday and are tied for 51st. Donovan, who is from Hopkinton, Mass., had her parents in attendance for the first time in a collegiate event and saw her tie for a team-best with two birdies. She hit 11 greens, nine fairways and collected 33 putts on the day. Donovan opened the morning with a par, triple-bogey and birdie on the first three holes. Her birdie on No. 12 came when she drained a 15-foot putt, which is a 490-yard, par five.
Donovan closed the first nine with four pars and two bogeys to make the turn at four-over-par, 39. She finished the day with six pars, a birdie on No. 2, a bogey on No. 9 and a double-bogey on No. 5. Donovan turned in a solid round and if you take out the five strokes she lost with a double and triple-bogey on No. 5 and No. 11, she would have been only one-over-par.
Yu Young Lee rolled in an 18-foot birdie putt on the par-five 16th hole, which was her highlight of the day as she hit 10 fairways, eight greens and had 30 putts. After playing the first nine holes at five-over-par, Lee was one-over-par on the final nine.
Blue Devil senior Amanda Blumenherst struggled all day with her driver and wasn’t able to get any putts to drop as she settled for a seven-over-par, 77, which matches her worst round as a collegiate golfer. Blumenherst, who is from Scottsdale, Ariz., enters the second round tied for 67th. On the day, she did not collect a birdie to extend her streak to 45 straight holes without a birdie at the Mark Bostick Golf Course at Florida. Her birdie-free round also marks the second straight tournament she has opened the first round without a birdie.
“I did not hit the ball well off the tee at all,” said Blumenherst. “For about five holes, I wasn’t able to hit the green in regulation as I had to punch out. That just makes it tough right away -- you are not even having a chance at birdie and you are having to play defensive golf as well. I really missed-clubbed myself a few times to as I hit some good shots that flew over the green. All of a sudden I am in the water hazard when I hit a solid shot. So some mental mistakes, just not really hitting it solid and putts were not falling -- one of those off days.”
The reigning three-time National Player of the Year, Blumenherst had three bogeys and a double-bogey on the first nine holes as she made the turn at five-over-par, 40. Her double-bogey on the 170-yard, 15th hole, came as she miss-clubbed her approach, which saw her ball fly the green into the hazard. Blumenherst ended up making an excellent up-and-down from the bunker for double-bogey.
On the final nine, she rang in seven pars and two bogeys on No. 5 and No. 6. Blumenherst closed the day with a great approach shot to within two feet for par.
As a team, Duke managed only six birdies in scoreable conditions on Thursday. The Blue Devils have been in this situation before as in 2007, Duke was tied for 10th after day one of the NCAA East Regional in Baton Rouge, La. Duke ended up moving to third place after day two and then pulled out a remarkable two-stroke victory over UCLA, which was keyed by a NCAA-record-tying round of 63 by Blumenherst. As a team, Duke shot a school-record 16-under-par, 271, in the final round.
“I would be lying if I told you I didn’t think there was some pressure,” said Brooks. “We have had a good string. But given what would inevidently be there as pressure, I think the this team has handled it very well.”
The Blue Devils will tee off on Friday in the second round beginning at 12:40 p.m., on hole No. 1 along with North Carolina and Denver.
• Duke played from April 6-7 in the Lady Gator Invitational and tied for first with Auburn before falling in a playoff. The Blue Devils shot rounds of 298, 305 and 310 in very tough conditions.
• The top eight teams after 54 holes of action will advance to the NCAA Championship from May 19-22 at the Caves Valley Golf Club in Owings Mills, Md.
• Amanda Blumenherst did not count her round of 77 on Thursday, which marks the first full round she has not counted for Duke this year and only the second full round of her career she has not counted. She did not count a round as a sophomore as well. Her round of 77 marks the fourth time this season she has shot a 77.
• Senior Jennie Lee has counted all 25 rounds she has played this season (25-of-25).
• Duke has a streak of 11 straight NCAA Championship appearances as the last time the Blue Devils did not advance past regionals was in 1997 with a 17th place ledger.
• Both Alison Whitaker and Kim Donovan each had their parents making rare appearances at a tournament. Whitaker’s parents flew in recently from Australia, while Donovan’s drove down from Hopkinton, Mass.
Top 10 Team Results
1 East Carolina Univ. +3 F +3 283 283
2 Alabama, U. of +4 F +4 284 284
3 Vanderbilt +6 F +6 286 286
4 Denver, Univ. of +7 F +7 287 287
5 Virginia +10 F +10 290 290
6 North Carolina +11 F +11 291 291
T7 Tulane University +12 F +12 292 292
T7 Tennessee +12 F +12 292 292
9 Georgia +17 F +17 297 297
10 Duke +18 F +18 298 298
T14 - Jennie Lee (10) Duke +1 F +1 71
T40 - Alison Whitaker (10) Duke +5 F +5 75
T51 - Kimberly Donovan (10) Duke +6 F +6 76
T51 - Yu Young Lee (10) Duke +6 F +6 76
T67 - Amanda Blumenherst (10) Duke +7 F +7 77
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