STATE COLLEGE, Pa. - Even though the fifth-ranked and third-seeded Duke women’s golf team was down a golfer due to injury, the Blue Devils played two straight days of outstanding golf at the NCAA East Regional to advance to the NCAA Championship for the 24th time in school history and the 14th time out of the last 15 years.
“They did show a lot of heart. I have seen teams go down to four for a day, maybe two,” said Duke head coach Dan Brooks. “I don’t know of a team at regionals who has played with four, all three days, and advanced on to nationals. It possibly has happened but I am not aware of it. I am real proud of them for having done this.”
Duke registered rounds of 302, 293 and 292 to finish with a 54-hole total of 887 on its way to placing tied for sixth overall. South Carolina, who is coached by Duke alum Kalen Anderson, claimed the team title with a three-day total of 873. Texas A&M, (878), Texas (878), Alabama (879), Florida (879), Arizona State (887), Michigan State (887) and Duke rounded out the eight teams advancing on to the NCAA Championship.
“A little reminder about being calm and trusting your game,” commented Brooks on what he told the team heading into the final round. “That is probably what all the coaches are saying out here. For us, with only four on the course, it was particularly important to do that. They did a great job.”
“I can’t say that I was enjoying myself when we were four shots out of not going, when we had about an hour and 10 minutes left to play,” said Brooks on how satisfying advancing is. “That wasn’t fun, but now that it is over and we are in, I can tell you that this is what it’s all about: Watching Courtney get it up-and-down on seven, which is our 16th hole, from a fried egg in the bunker. At the same time, I turned my head to watch Stacey make a 20-footer for an up-and-down par on the eighth hole. That was great, to see those two rising seniors do that right at the end.
Following an injury to sophomore Alejandra Cangrejo midway through round one, the Blue Devils were forced to play the final two days with only four golfers at the 6,253-yard, par 72 Penn State Blue Course in State College, Pa. All four golfers stepped up their games and played solid golf to move Duke on to the NCAA Championship, after missing the cut a year ago at Notre Dame.
Continuing her solid play all season, Lindy Duncan turned in a one-under-par, 71, on Saturday on her way to finishing tied for third overall with rounds of 73, 72 and 71 for a total of 216. A product of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Duncan was all over the cup each of the three days but couldn’t get the putts to drop.
“It is definitely different as you have no room for error,” commented Duncan on playing with only four golfers. “So all four of us had to be really patient and play really good golf out here. We did it.”
For the second straight day, Duke opened play on hole 10 and Duncan posted three straight pars before failing to get up-and-down on No. 13 to drop to one-over-par. She closed the first nine holes with a 15-foot birdie putt on the 364-yard, par four 16th and on the 446-yard, par five 18th she two-putted for birdie, after being on the green in two shots. Duncan stayed at one-under-par until she suffered her second bogey of the day on the third hole.
Duncan stayed at even par until the final hole where she hit her second shot into the par five 18th to just on the fringe behind the pin. She two-putted for her 10th birdie of the tournament and gave her a one-under-par, 71, on the day. Duncan hit 13 greens, 12 fairways and had 31 putts on the day.
The top five finish is sixth of the season and Duncan now owns 19 rounds of even or under par, which ranks tied for fourth on Duke’s single-season charts. Out of her last 10 rounds of golf, nine have been even or under par.
Collecting her second straight round of even par in the final round was junior Stacey Kim. A native of Columbus, Ga., Kim birdied the first hole for the second straight day but then suffered back-to-back bogeys to fall to one-over-par through three holes. Kim collected seven straight pars before notching her second birdie of the day as she rolled in a six-foot putt on the 331-yard, par four second hole. She stuck her third shot to within two feet on No. 5 on her way to moving to one-under-par with a short birdie. Kim closed with a bogey on the sixth hole and then had three straight pars. She had a key up-and-down par on No. 8 as Kim drained a 20-footer, after hitting her approach shot off the green to the right.
“It is a great feeling,” said Kim on advancing to nationals. “Obviously we were down to four players and to just be able to play well for the team and to get us past this stage it was a really good feat for us. It just proves that when we have the stakes against us we can do well.”
For the day, Kim registered 13 greens, eight fairways and had 31 putts. She finished tied for 19th with a 54-hole total of 221. Kim had posted only three even or under par rounds this season, but she registered two over the last two days. Out of nine career regional rounds, Kim has four even or under par scorecards. Her top 20 finish is the fourth of the season and third straight heading into the NCAA Championship.
Continuing to play some of the best golf of her career, Courtney Ellenbogen tied a career best with a three-day total of 222 to tie for 29th, after carding rounds of 76, 72 and 74. She opened her round with a key sand save for par and then went to one-over-par with a bogey on No. 13. Ellenbogen then went eight straight holes with a par before dropping to two-over-par with a bogey on the 175-yard, par three fourth hole. The Blacksburg, Va., resident registered her lone birdie on the day on No. 6 as she rolled in a six-footer to get a stroke back.
”When Courtney’s back is against the wall and she wants to fight, she is really good,” said Brooks. “An example of this was when she finished low for us at nationals as a freshman. That was a Courtney that was very tough. That was the Courtney I saw in this tournament.”
Presented with a fried egg in the bunker on No. 16, Ellenbogen was able to get it on the green and holed a very key 10-foot par putt to remain at one-over-par. She suffered a bogey on No. 18 to close the day with a 74. On the morning, she hit all 14 fairways, 11 greens and had 31 putts. Ellenbogen notched four up-and-downs. Over the last two days, she collected a total of seven up-and-downs. Heading into regional action, Ellenbogen had only one round of even or under par and matched that this week.
Needing a solid round from Laetitia Beck, who is a two-time All-ACC selection, the sophomore came through in a big way shooting a three-over-par, 75, in the final round on her way to finishing 65th with a 228. Beck, who is from Caesarea, Israel, continued her standout play over the first nine holes this week as she was two-under-par making the turn on Saturday. Over the three days, Beck was a combined two-under-par over her first nine holes, but struggled on the back nine with a 14-over-par ledger.
Beck collected birdies on No. 11 and No. 18 on the first nine in the final round, but after making the turn she got in trouble with her drive as it went to the right in the trees. After eventually getting the ball on the green, she three-putted to finish with a triple-bogey. Beck suffered a bogey on No. 2 and was two-over-par with seven holes remaining. She had five consecutive pars before heading into the challenging uphill 162-yard, par three eighth hole. Beck suffered a bogey and finished the week with a four-over-par ledger on the par three. She finished the ninth with a par on her way to finishing with a 75. Beck hit 13 greens, five fairways and had 33 putts.
Duke will head to the NCAA Championship, which will take place from May 22-25 at the Vanderbilt Legends Golf Club in Franklin, Tenn.
• The last 10 appearances in the NCAA Championship, Duke has placed in the top 10. The Blue Devils own five NCAA titles -- 1999, 2002, 2005, 2006, 2007.
• In three appearances in the NCAA Regional, Lindy Duncan has placed in the top six twice now (tied sixth last year).
• Lindy Duncan was six-under-par on the par fives this week, which tied for an individual best in the field.
• Courtney Ellenbogen posted 40 pars in three days to rank tied for fourth in the field. The most this week was 43 by Bertine Strauss of Texas.
• Stacey Kim totaled one of only five birdies on the 386-yard, par four third hole on Saturday. Hole three played as the toughest hole on the course in the final round (+0.57).
• After posting only two birdies on the par fives in the first round, Duke registered eight on Friday in the second round and posted four on Saturday.
• 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.