STATE COLLEGE, Pa. - The first round of the NCAA East Regional didn’t go the way the fifth-ranked Duke women’s golf team had envisioned as the Blue Devils carded a 14-over-par, 302, and lost a golfer to injury on its way to placing tied for 11th with 36 holes remaining at the 6,253-yard, par 72 Penn State Blue Course in State College, Pa.
Duke’s day started well and were tied for the lead midway through the round when Blue Devil sophomore Alejandra Cangrejo injured her elbow hitting out of the rough on hole No. 12 and had to withdraw. At the time, Cangrejo was even par and playing excellent golf. Duke was two-over-par as a team when the injury occurred and went on to conclude the day with a 14-over-par, 302, ledger.
“She broke it (elbow) as a young girl so the injury has been with her for a long time,” said Duke head coach Dan Brooks. She just got in the rough. She hit one shot in the rough that hurt it - she thinks that is where she really did the damage. Then she hit another shot that told her there was something wrong. It is something that she is aware of all the time. She babies it in workouts and has to ice it a lot. It is a vulnerable spot.”
As a team, the Blue Devils sit tied for 11th with a 302. South Carolina, who is coached by Duke alum Kalen Anderson, holds the team lead with an even-par, 288, while Alabama (292), Florida (294), Washington (296), Texas (296), Texas A&M (296), Tulane (298), Oklahoma State (299), Michigan State (300), UCF (301), Duke (302) and Arizona (302) round out the top 12 squads.
“I told them the good news is they only count four scores every day,” commented Brooks. “We would really be in trouble if they counted five. We have won with four [golfers in the past]. Duke has done some really special things with four. We can have a nice story to tell.”
The No. 1 ranked golfer in the nation, Lindy Duncan registered an opening round 73 and is tied for 17th with two days remaining. A product of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Duncan had a nice start as she had a par on the first hole and then stuck a wedge within two feet and rolled in her first birdie of the day to move to one-under-par.
“It was tough,” said Duncan. “I definitely didn’t play my best but I hung in there. Unfortunately, I made a couple of bogeys and didn’t really get much going but hopefully I will be only a couple of shots out of the lead.”
She couldn’t get much going over the next 15 holes as she totaled three bogeys and 12 pars to drop to two-over-par. Duncan closed strong with a sand save for birdie on the 445-yard, par five 18th. She hit her second shot into the green side bunker and then rolled in a four-foot birdie to finish with a 73. Duncan’s over-par round snapped a seven-round streak of notching even or under par rounds heading into regional action. She hit nine fairways, 12 greens and had 30 putts on the day.
“It definitely was challenging,” commented Duncan. “You have to be very careful about hitting a lot of fairways because the rough can get you - you can get some bad lies. It was really tough out there.”
Leading the individual action is Texas A&M’s Katerina Ruzickova with a five-under-par, 67. South Carolina’s Justine Dreher is second with a two-under-par, 70.
Junior Courtney Ellenbogen and sophomore Laetitia Beck each turned in rounds of 76 on Thursday and are tied for 51st. A native of Blacksburg, Va., Ellenbogen had a solid round but had two bad swings and struggled putting that led to double-bogeys on the front nine. After making the turn with a five-over-par, 41, Ellenbogen played the back nine at one-under-par as she rolled in a 10-foot birdie on No. 12. She hit 11 fairways, 13 greens and had 33 putts on the day.
Beck had a great round going through No. 14 as she was even-par, but finished the final four holes at four-over-par to close with a 76. She turned in bogeys on the 15th and 18th holes along with a double-bogey on No. 16. Beck, who is from Caesarea, Israel, had two birdies in the round on the third and 10th holes as she rolled in a 50-footer on No. 3. She hit 11 greens, eight fairways and had 32 putts in her round.
After notching a par on the first hole and sticking an approach to within two feet for birdie on No. 2, junior Stacey Kim was poised for a stellar round on Thursday. A native of Columbus, Ga., Kim then had bogeys on No. 3, No. 5 and No. 7 on her way to making the turn at two-over-par, 38. Kim had six pars and three straight bogeys from 14-16 to finish with a 77. She narrowly missed a birdie on No. 18 but it lipped out. For the day, she hit 10 greens, 10 fairways and had 33 putts. Kim is tied for 60th overall.
“Every day is a new day and with these conditions we could still be right in there,” said Duncan. “At this tournament it is only a couple of shots, so get in some good practice, rest and come out tomorrow ready to go.”
With the loss of Cangrejo, Duke lost a golfer that was playing some of the best golf of her short career as she placed tied for second at the ACC Championship and tied for 16th at the Bryan National Collegiate the last two tournaments. Cangrejo, who is from Bogota, Colombia, had 11 pars before getting injured on the 12th hole. For Friday’s second round, she will see how it feels and then make a decision if she can play prior to the round.
Duke will tee off on Friday beginning at 12:56 p.m., off No. 10 along with Alabama and Arizona State.
• Duke started the day with three birdies over the first three holes but had only three more birdies the rest of the round.
• The Blue Devils managed only two birdies on par fives in the first round -- Ellenbogen (hole 12) and Duncan (hole 18).
• Lindy Duncan owns a 72.25 first round scoring average on the season, but improves each day as the second round is 70.88 and the final round is 69.00.
• Duke was a combined seven-over-par on holes 14-16 on the back nine. The Blue Devils were also a combined four-over-par on No. 7.
• Earlier this season at the Tar Heel Invitational, Duke played the second round without Laetitia Beck due to her observing a Jewish holiday. Duke was forced to play this round with only four golfers. In 2005-06, Duke played the Bryan National Collegiate with only four golfers and finished second. In 2004-05, the Blue Devils played the Northrop Grumman Regional Challenge and the Bryan National Collegiate with only four golfers. Duke finished third at the regional challenge and first at the Bryan National.