ATHENS, Ga. – The third-ranked and top-seeded Duke women’s golf team carded a two-under-par, 286, on Tuesday in the opening round of the NCAA Championship and sit only two shots off the lead with 54 holes of golf remaining at the 6,372-yard, par 72 University of Georgia Golf Course in Athens, Ga.
San Jose State opened the morning wave with a four-under-par, 284, and took the outright lead before Southern California closed the afternoon session with a 284 as well to finish the day tied following 18 holes. The Blue Devils carded 11 birdies and sit two shots behind the team leaders with three days of action left. Alabama (288), UCLA (289), Purdue (289), Stanford (290), Oklahoma (291), Arizona State (293) and Tulane (295) rounded out the top 10.
“I thought we played well; we played smart,” commented Duke head coach Dan Brooks. “We missed a few putts that we needed to fall but overall our team did what they needed to do. We just need to stay focused and remain a team and the rest will play itself out. The golf has been what we expected since the preview but the greens, fairways, and roughs all have played a little softer due to all the rain the course has gotten.”
Leading the way for the Blue Devils was freshman Celine Boutier, who carded a career-best three-under-par, 69, and is tied for second overall on the individual leaderboard. A native of Montrouge, France, Boutier is two shots off the individual leader, Regan De Guzman of San Jose State, who fired a five-under-par, 67, in the morning. Boutier is tied for Alabama’s Stephanie Meadow at three-under-par.
“The course is in great shape and playing in the preview has really helped me gauge the course,” commented Boutier. “The weather is much warmer now so I have had to adjust to that. It’s always good to start off with a good score in the first round so I am happy about that. I saved a lot of pars today and made three birdies which helped me a lot this round.”
Boutier turned in a bogey-free round on Tuesday as she went off first for the Blue Devils at 12:03 p.m. She opened her day draining two key par putts of 15 feet each, before rolling in the first birdie of the afternoon for Duke on the 356-yard, par four sixth hole. She then carded birdies of approximately 15 feet and 22 feet on No. 12 and No. 13, respectively. Boutier finished the day hitting 14 greens, 14 fairways and rolling in 29 putts.
Coming off notching a four-under-par, 68, in the final round at the NCAA Central Regional, junior Laetitia Beck fired a one-under-par, 71, on Tuesday and is tied for sixth overall. Beck, who is out of Caesarea, Israel, collected pars on the first 10 holes to open the day before sticking an approach to within three feet on the 356-yard, par four 11th hole for birdie. She made a great up-and-down on No. 13, before suffering a bogey on the 14th. Beck responded with a six-foot birdie putt on No. 15, bogied No. 16 and had a tap-in birdie on the 488-yard, par five 18th. She had only 85 yards to the pin, used her 56-degree wedge to hit the ball past the hole, before spinning back and almost in the cup. Beck notched 13 greens, 12 fairways and had 30 putts on the day.
“I finally hit my tee shots well and hit 12 fairways, which is really good for me,” commented Beck. “I missed only a few greens and that is why I made a lot of pars and a few birdies. Overall, it was a good round. Especially after last year I didn’t really do anything for the team. I am happy I was able to help us get near the top of the leaderboard.”
Looking to claim a third straight top 10 finish in the NCAA Championship, senior Lindy Duncan had a slow start to the day before closing strong with an even-par, 72. She is tied for 20th heading into Wednesday’s play. Duncan started slow with bogeys on No. 1 and No. 3, but regrouped and played the final 15 holes at two-under-par. She carded birdies on the fifth and ninth holes, followed by nine straight pars to finish. Duncan, a native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., notched a team-best 15 greens in regulation, nine fairways and had 32 putts.
Playing her first competitive round since firing a career-best five-under-par, 67, in the final day of the NCAA Central Regional, senior Courtney Ellenbogen turned in a two-over-par, 74, on Tuesday. The product of Blacksburg, Va., suffered a bogey on No. 3, but sank a 15-foot birdie on No. 5 to get back to even par. After hitting her approach in the bunker on No. 6, Ellenbogen suffered a double-bogey as her bogey putt lipped out. She came right back with her second birdie of the day on the 473-yard, par five seventh as she connected on a 16-foot birdie to move to one-over-par. She had 10 pars and a bogey on No. 1 to finish out her round, which included a key 12-foot par putt on No. 13. Ellenbogen hit 12 fairways, 12 greens and had 30 putts on the day.
Junior Alejandra Cangrejo couldn’t get it going on Tuesday in the opening round as she struggled with a five-over-par, 77, but closed strong with a six-foot birdie putt on the par five 18th. Cangrejo, who is out of Bogota, Colombia, played her final five holes at one-under-par. She hit 10 greens, eight fairways and had 33 putts on the afternoon.
Duke will begin teeing off in the second round on Wednesday at 7:30 a.m., off hole No. 10 along with Alabama and Southern California.
Notes: • Celine Boutier had previous career-best rounds of 70 at the NCAA Central Regional in the first round and at the Allstate Sugar Bowl Intercollegiate. • The first round of 286 by the Blue Devils is the best opening round for Duke since 1998. Duke finished fourth overall in 1998, after shooting rounds of 285, 298, 297, 299. • Boutier’s round of 69 is only the 11th round in the 60s for Duke golfers in the NCAA Championship and the first since 2008 (Amanda Blumenherst, 68).