FRANKLIN, Tenn. - After dealing with an illness combined with not being able to get many putts to drop, Duke University standout Lindy Duncan came alive down the stretch with four birdies over her final five holes to finish tied for sixth overall at the 2012 NCAA Championship, which was played at the 6,377-yard, par 72 Vanderbilt Legends Golf Club in Franklin, Tenn.
“It is unbelievable,” commented Duncan on her finish. “I don’t know where those birdies came from. It was kind of a grind all week. I kept fighting. That is what you have to do in this game.”
Duncan, who is the No. 1 golfer in the nation, got her putter going late to finish with a two-under-par, 70, on Friday in the final round and a 72-hole total of 290 with rounds of 70, 75, 75 and 70. Her tied for sixth place finish gave her 10 placements in 2011-12 in the top eight and 13 straight top 10 finishes dating back to her sophomore campaign.
“It seems like no matter how bad things are for her, she gets in the top 10,” said Duke head coach Dan Brooks. “She did that down in Florida this spring and things were not going well for her. She was sick in this tournament and she figures out a way to get in the top 10. She has learned to be very patient. Golf was not easy for her this week.”
Over her last two NCAA Championships, Duncan has collected a tied for eighth and tied for sixth finish. She closed the books on a junior campaign where she won four tournaments, had 10 top 10 finishes, 21 rounds of even or under par and a 71.07 stroke average. Her 71.07 stroke average is the second-best in school history.
“It is just very special,” commented Duncan on her season. “Towards the end, I knew it was kind of there and I was maybe putting to much pressure on myself because of it but to actually do it is really special. I don’t even know what to say.”
Duke kicked off the day on hole No. 10 for the second straight afternoon and Duncan opened her round at even par as she made the turn. A product of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Duncan posted seven pars, a 13-foot birdie on No. 13 and a bogey on No. 16. After totaling bogeys on No. 1 and No. 4, Duncan came alive over her final five holes with four birdies and a par.
“It was definitely frustrating at times because I’ve worked really hard on my putting,” said Duncan. “I have seen so many improvements in it, but that is just one part of the game. There were lots of other things that were really great so I am just going to continue to work on it and continue to hopefully get it better. Overall, the year was really great and I am just really blessed to be a part this team and part of Duke.”
The two-time first team All-America rolled in a seven-foot birdie on No. 5 to get things going and then had a 15-foot birdie on the 389-yard, par four sixth hole. Duncan collected her longest putt of the week on No. 8 as she drained a 25-footer for birdie. On her final hole of the tournament, Duncan was on the green in two and two putted for her team-best fifth birdie of the day.
“Lindy is just a very special kid,” said Brooks. “She always works to make herself a better player. No matter what part of her life or golf she needs to pay attention to she does it and makes it a little bit better next time. That is really how I always end up describing her. She leaves no stone unturned and you can see the result. She never gets out of the top 10. She is a great player.”
On the afternoon, Duncan hit 12 greens, seven fairways and had 29 putts. She hit her final five greens of the day.
Taking the individual NCAA title was Oklahoma’s Chirapat Jao-Javanil with a four-day total of 282, while Alabama’s Brooke Pancake was second (286).
Alabama won its first NCAA women’s golf title with a 72-hole total of 1171 as the Crimson Tide won by one stroke over Southern California (1172). Rounding out the top 15 schools were LSU (1173), Virginia (1175), South Carolina (1176), Arizona State (1179), Oklahoma (1179), UCLA (1181), Purdue (1182), North Carolina (1184), Vanderbilt (1186), Florida (1190), Texas (1191), N.C. State (1191) and Duke (1192).
“Well, they did something today that I was missing in watching them the two days before in that they stayed tough,” said Brooks. “They really kept their chins up. The golf wasn’t what we hoped for, but at least they were a little bit tougher. The course just got us a little bit. Twelve birdies over the last five holes. That is testimony to their attitudes and they have a lot to be proud of. We had two wins and a runner-up this year, we won the ACC Championship in the spring and won the New Orleans Tournament, which was a very good field. There is a lot of good stuff to reflect on.”
Posting Duke’s second-best score of the day was junior Courtney Ellenbogen with a two-over-par, 74. A native of Blacksburg, Va., Ellenbogen came out on the first nine and was three-over-par when she made the turn. She suffered a bogey on No. 14 and a double-bogey on the toughest hole on the course -- the 154-yard, par three 16th. Over the four days, Ellenbogen was six-over-par on No. 16 with three double-bogeys.
“This two-over-par on this golf course where she is a player that doesn’t hit it real far,” said Brooks. “For her to be able to hit the shots she needs to hit, negotiating these really fast and hard greens. That was a really great round of golf. She has come a long ways.”
She played her final nine holes at one-under-par as she drained an eight-foot putt for birdie on No. 2 and an eight-footer on No. 9 to close the day. For the afternoon, Ellenbogen hit 13 fairways, 14 greens and had 32 putts. For the week, she tied for 91st with a four-day total of 306.
After carding rounds of 72 and 74 the first two days, sophomore Alejandra Cangrejo closed with rounds of 77 and 76 on her way to finishing tied for 51st with a 299. On the first nine, she couldn’t get much going with five pars and four bogeys as she made the turn at four-over-par. Cangrejo, who is from Bogota, Colombia, played her final nine at even par with five pars, two birdies and two bogeys. She registered a 20-footer birdie putt on No. 5 and a tap-in birdie on No. 7 as she was on the par five green in two. For the day, she hit nine fairways, eight greens and had 30 putts.
Coming into the day tied for 11th overall, Stacey Kim had been playing some of the best golf of her career. She had a rough round on Friday as she totaled an 80 on her way to finishing tied for 51st with a 299. A product of Columbus, Ga., Kim was five-over-par on the front nine and then was six-over-par heading to the short, 251-yard, par four second hole. Trying to make something happen, Kim tried to hit the green off the tee and almost got it there but it just hit on the left side of the green and bounced in the water. She went on to make a double-bogey.
Kim closed solid with two birdies over her final three holes and posted 10 birdies on the week. She hit 12 fairways, eight greens and had 31 putts on the day.
Continuing to struggle with her swing all week, sophomore Laetitia Beck was 12-over-par with four holes remaining on the day. Beck, who is from Caesarea, Israel, made one slight swing adjustment and then played the final four holes at three-under-par on her way to finishing with an 81. She chipped in for birdie on No. 13 and No. 6. Beck had 28 putts on the day, while hitting eight fairways. She tied for 117th with a 314.
As a team, Duke will return its entire roster for 2012-13 and welcome a solid recruiting class to the mix.
“I am excited for next year, it could be a lot of fun,” commented Brooks.
• With the 15th place finish, Duke snapped a streak of 10 straight top 10 finishes in which the Blue Devils have participated in. The finish is the second-lowest under head coach Dan Brooks.
• Duke is a combined 17-over-par on the 154-yard, par three 17th hole through the four days.
• As a team, Duke was seven-over-par on holes 1-9 this week, while being 68-over-par on holes 10-18.
• The Blue Devils were three-under-par on par fives on Friday, seven-under-par on Thursday and Wednesday was two-over-par.
• Laetitia Beck was one-over-par on holes 1-9 in the four rounds, while being 26-over-par on holes 10-18.
• Lindy Duncan was six-under-par on the week on holes 1-9, while being two-over-par on the other nine.