NORMAN, Okla. – For the eighth time in school history and the first time since the 2007 campaign, the Duke women’s golf team claimed a NCAA Regional Championship as the top-seeded and third-ranked Blue Devils carded a final round 12-under-par, 276, to win the Central Regional by six strokes at the 6,298-Yard, Par 72 Jimmie Austin OU Golf Club in Norman, Okla.
“It feels great,” commented Brooks on being the 2013 Central Region champions. “Particularly with the way we came in. Alejandra sticks it on the 18th hole, Courtney comes in at five-under. She has been out of the lineup most of the year. It is great to have her doing that. She is getting on a plane and flying to graduation right now. So she got to send herself into the ceremony feeling very good. I am super happy.”
Duke registered a 54-hole total of 851 with rounds of 284, 291 and 276 to overtake host Oklahoma (857). The Sooners held a six-stroke lead heading into the final round, but Oklahoma shot even-par (288) to Duke’s 12-under-par (276) on the final day. The Blue Devils carded a season-best three-day total of 851, which was the second-lowest regional output in school history. The 12-under-par, 276, was the second-lowest 18-hole total in school history on a par 72 course.
“Every season is a different thing and we just keep going after it,” said Brooks. “It took us a while to get a win this year. A lot of times you are doing great things but not quite winning. This spring we had a lot of thirds, runner-ups but just not quite getting the big trophy. I feel great about this year.”
The Blue Devils advanced to the NCAA Championship for the 25th time in school history and the 18th time out of the last 19 years. Rounding out the teams advancing the NCAA Championship were Oklahoma (857), Mississippi State (872), Florida (877), Arizona State (878), UC Davis (880), Wisconsin (883) and Michigan State (884).
“We talked this morning about just being patient,” said Brooks. “I think Oklahoma is a very good team and I didn’t think they were going to give us a whole lot. If we were going to win this, we needed to just plug along, not try to do spectacular things and just sort of wear them down a little bit. We actually ended up doing more spectacular things than I expected. It was really a great finish.”
Duke got off to a great start on Saturday with five birdies over the first three holes to move into the lead. The Blue Devils and Sooners traded the lead for the next few holes, but by the back nine Duke took control of the leaderboard and never looked back. Duke registered 20 birdies on the day led by senior Courtney Ellenbogen with a season-high six, Alejandra Cangrejo with five and Laetitia Beck with five.
The Blue Devils finished the 54 holes with three golfers in the top 10 – Cangrejo (T-2nd), Lindy Duncan (5th) and Ellenbogen (9th). Duke received key final round outputs from Ellenbogen with a career-best five-under-par, 67, and Beck with a four-under-par, 68.
Cangrejo, who is out of Bogota, Colombia, finished the three days with a career-best ledger of 211, after carding rounds of 72, 69 and 70. It marked the first time in her career that she has posted three straight rounds of even or under par. Her tied for second place finish was a season best as well. Cangrejo collected 12 birdies over her final two days of play.
“It just feels great,” said Cangrejo. “Winning any tournament is a great feeling and for us to be able to come back from a six shot deficit is just amazing. I played really well, but my team did a great job. It is a really good feeling to know we all played great.”
On Saturday, she opened with birdies on No. 1 and No. 5 to move to two-under-par, while collecting a key sand save on the 161-yard, par three second hole. She suffered a bogey on No. 7 and made a great approach from in the trees on the eighth hole to finish with a par. Cangrejo played the back nine at one-under-par with three birdies, including sticking her approach on the 545-yard, par five 18th to within a couple of feet for birdie. She hit 13 greens, nine fairways and had 28 putts on the day.
Taking the individual title was Ally McDonald of Mississippi State with a 10-under-par, 206. Emily Collins and AC Tanguay tied for second along with Cangrejo.
Turning in her 20th career top five finish was Duncan, who is a senior from Fort Lauderdale, Fla. She posted rounds of 69, 72 and 71 for a total of 212 as she finished three-under-par. Duncan registered a tap-in birdie on the short third hole, but hit her approach shot short on No. 4 and ended up with a bogey to drop back to even par. That did not sideline the reigning National Player of the Year as Duncan stuck her approach into the 531-yard, par five fifth hole to within two feet and made her second birdie of the day.
Duncan suffered another bogey on the seventh hole as her approach came up short once again, but went on to play her final 11 holes at one-under-par. She totaled 10 pars and rolled in a seven-foot birdie on No. 10. On the day, Duncan hit a team-best 15 greens, 10 fairways and had 31 putts.
Collecting her first top 10 finish since her freshman campaign, Ellenbogen played some of the best golf of her career in the final round. She notched six birdies and totaled only the second round in the 60s of her career. The previous time came as a freshman in the NCAA Championship, where she finished as the top Duke golfer (tied 18th). Her 54-hole total of 215 was a career-best ledger as she finished tied for eighth overall.
“It was really nice, especially on the last day of the tournament,” said Ellenbogen. “I knew that we were going to have to go pretty low because Oklahoma has been playing really well. I was able to stick a lot of shots and make putts. It was just a smooth round all the way around.”
Ellenbogen, who is a product of Blacksburg, Va., started fast with back-to-back birdies on the second and third holes. She failed to get up and down on No. 4 and finished with her only bogey of the day, but she came back strong to play the final 14 holes at four-under-par. Ellenbogen drained a birdie putt from just on the fringe on No. 8, sank a 15-footer for birdie on No. 10, stuck her approach to within three feet for birdie on No. 13 and rolled in a 25-foot birdie putt on the 172-yard, par three 15th.
“My swing has felt really good all year and it has continuing to improve the last month,” said Ellenbogen. “It was nice to finally have it all come together in one round. I was hitting it really well at ACCs, but I couldn’t my putting to go. It was nice to put both the putting and hitting together.”
On the day, she hit 13 greens, had a season-best 26 putts and hit nine fairways. From holes 10-14, Ellenbogen hit her approach shots to inside 15 feet each time and had three up-and-downs on the day.
After turning in rounds of 74 and 78 the first two days, Beck came alive on Saturday by turning in her second-best round of the season with a four-under-par, 68. A native of Caesarea, Israel, Beck rolled in a 20-foot putt to start the day with a birdie and then made seven straight pars. After hitting the fairway bunker off the tee, Beck suffered her only bogey of the day on the 358-yard, par four ninth. She was on fire on the back nine as she notched three birdies on her first four holes to move to three-under-par. Beck stuck all three approach shots to under five feet on her way to sinking the putts for birdie.
She hit another iron into the 16th green and stuck it to within two feet and registered her fifth birdie. Beck closed with two pars to finish with a 68. She hit 14 greens, had 28 putts and hit 10 fairways on the day. Beck went from being tied for 66th after round two, to finishing tied for 26th with a three-day total of 220.
Following a two-under-par, 70, in round one, freshman Celine Boutier added rounds of 75 and 76 the final two days to place tied for 30th with a 221. Boutier, who is from Montrouge, France, totaled one birdie in the final round on the 11th hole, while posting five bogeys. She hit 13 fairways, nine greens and had 31 putts in the round.
Duke will next compete in the NCAA Championship in Athens, Ga., from May 21-24 at the University of Georgia Golf Course.
Notes: • The lowest 54-hole total in Duke history at a regional was 844 in Baton Rouge, La., when the Blue Devils won their last regional title in the East in 2007. • The 851 ledger ties for the fourth-lowest 54-hole total in school history. • Duke posted its first Central Region title in school history, after winning seven East Region titles over the years (2007, 2004, 2003, 2002, 2001, 2000, 1996). • Courtney Ellenbogen’s previous best finish in a NCAA Regional was tied for 29th last year at Penn State. • Lindy Duncan has placed in the top 13 of all four of her regional appearances. • Duncan now owns 31 career top 10 finishes, which is now sole possession of second place on Duke’s career list. She owns 38 top 10 finishes and 68 even or under par rounds over her four years. • With the victory, head coach Dan Brooks now owns 114 career victories at Duke.