RADFORD, VA -- The Duke men's golf team fired a closing round 280 (-8) to surpass ACC rival Georgia Tech to claim the NCAA East Regional team title on Saturday. Tim Gornik fired a career-best six-under 66 and Julian Suri added a four-under 68 to lead the Blue Devils to their first regional title in school history and their third tournament championship of the season.
"I told Tim [Gornik] before the round that doing well today was all about attitude," said head coach Jamie Green. "Shoot at targets that were smart, let the golf course play as easily as it could play and have fun doing it. Tim is so good as a ball striker that he just puts it in places to give himself opportunities to make birdie. The few times that he had to scramble he did it flawlessly. The only bogey he made all day was on the last hole and that was a par four and a half in my book. That was as good of a round as I have seen in an awfully long time on a golf course."
Duke, ranked 16th in the latest Golf World / Nike Golf Coaches' Poll, entered the final round three shots behind No. 4 Georgia Tech. The Blue Devils posted the low round of the day to finish four shots better than the Yellow Jackets with a one-over 865. Duke along with Georgia Tech (+5, 869), Oklahoma (+11, 875), LSU (+16, 880) and Kent State (+29, 893) each advance to the NCAA Championship.
"We say all the time that you are playing the golf course and all you can control is what you are doing on it, the choices you make, the belief in yourself and obviously the talent you have with the golf clubs," said Green. "When we do that well there aren't a lot of golf teams that can play at that level. There are a few and Duke is one of them. This group of guys has done it tremendously a few times this year and today was one of those times."
Abraham Ancer (Oklahoma) won the individual crown with a six-under 210, while Kyle Scott (Georgia Tech), Sebastian Soderberg (Coastal Carolina) and James White (Georgia Tech) finished tied for second at four-under (212). Suri placed alone in fifth with a two-under 214, while Gornik was tied for eighth at even-par (216). Soderberg advances to the NCAA Championship as the low individual not on a qualifying team.
Gornik's six-under 66 on Saturday was a competitive course record at the Pete Dye River Course of Virginia Tech (par 72, 7,685 yards). The sophomore from Ljubljana, Slovenia, opened the day with a birdie on the par 4 first hole and moved to two-under with a birdie on No. 3 (par 5). Gornik added birdies on No. 6 and No. 8 to make the turn at four-under. He came out strong after the turn with birdies on No. 10 and No. 12 to move to six-under. Following four straight pars, Gornik carded his seventh birdie of the round on the par 3 17th hole. He suffered his only bogey of the day on No. 18 when his par putt burned the edge of the cup.
"Today I hit a lot of fairways and greens and had a lot of great shots," said Gornik. "I didn't have any wild chips or any strange lies. When I did miss a green I missed in the right spot and had an easy up and down."
Suri played bogey-free golf en route to a four-under 68 in the final round. The St. Augustine, Fla., native chipped in for birdie on No. 1 and nearly holed out from 130-yards on No. 2 before sinking a birdie putt to move to two-under. After parring the next six holes, Suri posted a tap-in birdie on the par 5 ninth hole to make the turn at three-under. He went on another six-hole par streak before carding a birdie on the par 5 16th hole to get to four-under. Suri finished par-par for his team-leading 10th under-par round and second top 5 finish of the season.
"I knew I had to get off to a good start for the team and also to try to catch the guys I was playing with and put some heat on them because that finish is pretty tough and anything can happen," said Suri. "Chipping in on No. 1 and then almost holing out from the rough on No. 2 was a great start and I was able to use that momentum to play well the rest of the round."
Sophomore Brinson Paolini returned to form on Saturday with an even-par 72. He fell to one-over with a bogey on No. 2 but quickly got back to even with a birdie on the par 5 third hole. Following a bogey on No. 6, Paolini birdied No. 8 and No. 9 to head to the back nine at one-under. The Virginia Beach, Va., native bogeyed No. 10 but recovered with a birdie on the par 5 12th hole to get back into red figures. Paolini parred the next four holes before suffering a bogey on the par 3 17th hole. He bounced back to par the challenging 18th hole for his team-best fifth even-par round of the year. Paolini finished tied for 19th with a six-over 222 (71-79-72).
Senior Wes Roach also finished tied for 19th after posting a 77-71-74=222 (+6). On Saturday, he opened with eight consecutive pars before carding a bogey on No. 9. After the turn, Roach parred No. 10-14 but slipped to two-over with a bogey on No. 15. He bounced back to birdie the 590-yard, par 5 16th hole before falling back to +2 with a bogey on No. 18.
Austin Cody, a freshman from North Charleston, S.C., shot a four-over 76 on Saturday to finish tied for 25th with a 223 (+7). He birdied both par 5s on the front nine and had just one bogey to make the turn at one-under. Cody dipped to +1 following bogeys on No. 10 and No. 11 but he recovered to birdie No. 13 and No. 14 to slide into red figures. His round came apart over the next three holes as Cody went bogey, bogey, triple-bogey to slip to four-over. Cody parred No. 18 to cap off a solid regional performance for the freshman.
Duke returns to action at the NCAA Championship (May 31 - June 5) at Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla. The Blue Devils will be making their third straight NCAA Championship appearance.
"It is exciting for all of the guys to know that we can close the deal like that," Green added. "We didn't win at the Hootie this year but that final round was awfully big. That type of round along with last year's regional final round has shown these guys what they are capable of no matter what the circumstances. That is a terrific thing for us to know what they have accomplished and that they can do it again."
"This golf course wasn't very easy to get under par and to do that today in this type of atmosphere in an NCAA Championship of any kind is pretty awesome," Green continued. "It is a good feeling going into next week because it is two-fold. You have to play well in stroke play to give yourself an opportunity to reach match play. I know these guys believe in themselves now in both formats and they have reason to."
*** With the team title at the NCAA East Regional, Duke now has three team championships on the season ... Duke last won three or more team titles during the 2004-05 season ... this marks the fourth time in school history Duke has won three or more tournaments in a season.
*** Duke's first place finish at the NCAA East Regional is the best showing in school history. The Blue Devils previous regional play highs were fourth place finishes in 2010 and 1997.
*** The Blue Devils are advancing to the NCAA Championship for the third straight season under head coach Jamie Green ... this is the second time in school history the team has reached the NCAA Championship in three straight seasons.
*** Jamie Green is the first Duke head coach to guide the Blue Devils to three consecutive NCAA Championship trips.
*** Jamie Green now has 21 career tournament championships with four during his two and half seasons at Duke.
*** Duke's eight-under 280 in the final round is the third-best regional round in program history.
*** The Blue Devils' one-over 865 is the third-best 54-hole score in school history.
*** Duke carded 20 birdies in the final round of play to finish with a tournament-best 57 birdies.
*** Suri and Gornik recorded the eighth and ninth top 10 regional finishes in Duke golf history ... Suri finished fifth overall for the fourth top 5 finish by a Blue Devil in regional play.
*** Gornik's six-under 66 is the second-best regional round in relation to par at Duke.
*** Suri's two-under 214 for the tournament is tied for the sixth-best finish by a Blue Devil in NCAA Regional action ... it also marks the 11th time a Duke golfer has finished under-par in a regional.
*** Gornik recorded his first career top 10 finish at the NCAA East Regional ... all eight Blue Devils have at least one top 10 showing this season.
*** Gornik and Roach share the team lead with seven top 20 finishes.
*** Suri has finished in the top 10 in three straight tournaments for the Blue Devils ... he has a pair of top 5 showings in that span.
*** Suri has shot under-par in eight of the last 10 rounds played ... he has five rounds in the 60s in that span.
*** Paolini is now tied for eighth at Duke with 12 career even-par rounds ... he also ranks 12th with 32 rounds of even-par or better golf.