DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. - The Duke women’s golf team completed their task of earning a third consecutive National Championship Friday at the 6,351-Yard, Par 72 LPGA International Legends Course in Daytona Beach, Fla. The win means Duke has won not only its third straight title but its fifth overall, all in the last nine years.
Duke’s five titles is second to Arizona State, who has six. ASU was the last team to three-peat, doing so in 1992-95. The championship also marks the ninth in Duke history along with three men’s basketball championships (1991, ’92 and 2001) and men’s soccer (1986).
The Blue Devils shot a two-over par 290 Friday to finish the tournament with an 18-over score of 1,170, 15 strokes better than second place Purdue (1,185). Rounding out the top 10 teams were UCLA (1,186), Southern California (1,196), Stanford (1,197), Vanderbilt (1,200), Pepperdine (1,202), Georgia (1,205), Auburn (1,213) and Louisville (1,214).
Taking home the individual title was Stacy Lewis of Arkansas, who closed with an individual-best round of 66 on Friday. She posted a four-day total of 282, which was six-under-par. Paola Morena of Southern California and Christel Boeljon of Purdue (286) were tied for second.
Duke battled fierce winds as well as off and on rain during the final day of action. The Blue Devils started the day off with an eight stroke lead over Purdue and never faltered from the lead. Towards the start of the back nine, Duke held a double-digit advantage and never looked back.
When the day was done, the Blue Devils collected three golfers in the top-seven of the individual action as Amanda Blumenherst was fourth, Anna Grzebien was sixth and Jennie Lee was tied for seventh. Jennifer Pandolfi added a 17th place finish, while Alison Whitaker was 46th.
Playing in her final collegiate round on Friday was Grzebien, who finishes her career with three straight National titles. Grzebien, who is out of Narragansett, R.I., concluded her college days with a two-under-par, 70, to finish with a 72-hole total of 292, which was sixth. She opened her day with two birdies and two bogies on the front nine to make the turn at even par, 36. On the back nine, Grzebien notched birdies on the 13th and 17th holes to finish two-under-par. Out of four NCAA Championships, she finished in the top-10 twice as she was the 2005 NCAA Individual Champion in Sunriver, Oregon.
Finishing off her amazing season was Blumenherst, who closed with a four-day total of 289 with rounds of 70, 73, 74, 72, which was fourth. A product of Scottsdale, Ariz., notched her second straight top 10 appearance in the NCAA Championship, while posting one birdie and one bogey on each nine during the last day. Her 4.63 par-five scoring on the week led the tournament, while her 14 birdies was tied for third. Blumenherst totaled top 10 finishes in all 10 tournaments she played in this season.
Also earning her second consecutive top-10 finish in a NCAA Championship was Lee, who was seventh with rounds of 76, 72, 72 and 74 to total 294. She made the turn in the afternoon at three-over-par, 39, but birdies on two of her final four holes led to a two-over finish. A native of Henderson, Nev., Lee made a dramatic finish as she chipped in from 30-feet on the 18th hole to close with a birdie. Her 53 pars was fourth in the tournament.
Since arriving at Duke three years ago, Pandolfi has guided the Blue Devils to three straight titles. She finished the week tied for 17th, which was a career-best finish in the NCAA Championship for the Navarre, Fla., product. Pandolfi totaled three birdies on the final day as she finished the week with rounds of 77, 73, 75 and 74 for a total of 299.
Freshman Alison Whitaker finished off her week with her second straight round of 78 as she closed in tied for 46th with a total of 305. Whitaker, who is from Melbourne, Australia, totaled the highlight of her tournament on the 474-yard, par five eighth hole as she collected her first career collegiate eagle. She holed out from a fairway bunker as she sent the shot about 15 feet past the hole and spun it back into the hole.
Duke totaled 11 birdies on the final day of play to go along with Whitaker’s eagle, which was one of only four eagles on the week.
The Blue Devils graduate Grzebien, but return the rest of the National Championship squad. Duke will welcome Kim Donovan to the roster next season to go along with rising sophomores Yu Young Lee and Rebecca Kim.
Duke Head Coach Dan Brooks
On winning three-in-a-row:
“It feels really good. This team, we were ranked second for a lot of the year and not that we pay a lot of attention to that Ė all that tells you is there was a lot of parity in this particular year. There were some really good teams. Purdue beat us at Bryant National. I really respect them for that win. We were playing in really nasty weather and they got out there and were extremely tough. I think they won and we finished fourth. We knew that we were up against some tough teams. I was not surprised Purdue was one of the teams and also UCLA, we beat them at Regionals, but it was good golf they were playing there. I was not surprised that the two teams I saw this spring that were really, really tough were the two with us there in the last pairing. And they didn’t go away.
“We were eight shots up and after the first nine, it was still about the same. I felt like we were playing pretty well and they were just staying right there. That gave me a good feeling to know that we were the same after the turn because I felt like we were a solid enough team and that we make enough good choices that we could have an eight-shot gap going into the backside and that we could sustain the lead all the way to the end. It was not comfortable, it was not like we could relax. They are good enough to where if that had slipped to half, now you are going to the back thinking this could go the other way.”
Did you all talk about the three-peat much this season?
“The neat thing about this team is we did not give that any air time at all. We didn’t’ talk about that. I think they love the game of golf and golf is all about one shot at a time. So, if you just have people that love to play, you don’t get terribly hung up on what it means. What it means is you hit a great shot and it felt good. That is what it means. And you have the smile because you had a great hole or whatever. If you can stay in the present and enjoy it for that, then you don’t get to terribly caught up in the other stuff.”
What does the three-peat mean to you and its place in history?
“I always respected what Linda and the Arizona State Sun Devils did. That was always impressive. So, to be doing a similar kind of thing, you know she still has more wins than me, so I am inspired to keep going, not for that reason, but because I love what I do. I just like the process. I love what I do and I love the players I get to be associated with. You know from watching people like Anna (Grzebien) grow from being a touch on the immature side as she came in to being one of the best leaders we have ever had. She just leads this team. It is always hard to see someone like Anna leave because I feel like we have become really close, but that is why I do it. It’s not so much about the three-peat, but it’s nice. I enjoy it.”
Talk about the play of Anna the last three days after an opening-round 80?
“You don’t want to give Anna a reason to start burning inside and that is what that 80 did. She shot the 80, fortunately the way they set college golf up, we get to throw it out and who knows that 80 might have almost been a positive because the burn that came from that propelled her to do the rest of it. She could have shot a 60-something that first round and still did the same thing, but she is the type of person that is going to get fueled by something like that. She is going to be fueled by a bad round and there is know way she is going to let that define this tournament.”
Duke Sophomore Amanda Blumenherst
On the three-peat:
“Duke has a great tradition in women’s golf and it is amazing to be a part of it and continue that tradition. So, coming out here and getting the three-peat that has only been done by one other school is a great honor and a great achievement.”
On her own tournament:
“It was hard out there. It was a grind. I think I could have hit my tee ball a little bit better. I think if I could work on anything, usually that is a strong point of my game. I hit my irons very solid and my fairway woods. And, I was putting well. So, it was few things here and there, but I felt like I played well and helped the team a bit.”
On senior Anna Grzebien and what she means to the program:
“She is an amazing part of the team. She is a great leader and a great team captain. It is definitely going to be a sad loss for our team next year when we don’t have her. She did a great job this year and just showing that she went four-under the last three rounds show what an amazing captain she is.”
Duke Senior Anna Grzebien
Can you talk about the course conditions today?
“At first it wasn’t too bad, it was just the wind and once the rain came I thought it was going to be a downpour. But it ended up not being too bad. Like the other days the wind just picked up and it just swirled out here, so it was tough to commit to your shots. It was a test.”
On bouncing back from a poor-opening round to close out so strong:
“I wanted to end my career on a high note. After the first day I was not a happy camper and that fired me up more. I just dug my heels in and wanted to go out with a team championship. And when you come to this tournament, you have to come to play. If you waste too many shots, people will come up and take it away from you. I just took it one shot at a time and it worked out.”
As a senior, did you say anything to the team before the round?
“We don’t do a lot of it, I’m not really a motivational speaker. That’s the way this team is, we are all such close friends that just having each other’s support, we all know that we are all there for each other. We just tried to relax last night, enjoy ourselves and everyone seemed pretty calm today.”