DURHAM, N.C. - The Duke men's golf team, ranked 16th in the latest Golf World / Nike Golf Coaches' Poll, was awarded the 14th-seed for the 2011 NCAA Championship after winning the NCAA East Regional last weekend. The Blue Devils, making their third straight championship appearance, open play at Karsten Creek Golf Club (par 72, 7,425 yards) in Stillwater, Okla., on Tuesday, May 31 at 2 pm. Duke will begin play on the back nine in the opening round and will be paired with Iowa and Michigan.
"Any time we play well enough at regionals to advance there is a sense of victory, whether finishing first or fifth," said head coach Jamie Green. "But, earning the victory at the East Regional, especially in come from behind fashion, keeps spirits and belief levels deservedly high. When you look at the six regionals, it would appear that ours was probably the most challenging from a scoring perspective. That is very good preparation for us going to Karsten Creek because that course will demand your attention and every bit of your physical and mental abilities if a team is going to succeed. Our guys have built up confidence by playing assertively, intelligently, and patiently over the last couple of months. That's going be a big factor next week."
The Blue Devils are making their 20th appearance in the NCAA Championship. Duke has reached the championship in each of the past three seasons; marking just the fourth time in program history it has accomplished that feat. Green joins Duke & GCAA Hall of Famer Dumpy Hagler as the only coaches in program history to take the team to the NCAA Championship in three straight seasons. Green has led a program to the NCAA Championship in each of the last six seasons, joining Buddy Alexander (Florida), Randy Lein (Arizona State) and Mike McGraw (Oklahoma State) as the only coaches to accomplish that feat.
The Blue Devils have won three tournament titles during the 2010-11 season marking the fourth time in school history they have accomplished that feat. Green has guided Duke to four tournament victories in two and half years in Durham and now has 21 coaching victories in his career. All three of Duke's team championships have come in the spring with the Blue Devils claiming titles at the Callaway Collegiate Match Play Championship, the Irish Creek Collegiate and the NCAA East Regional. Duke has won two of its last three tournaments and has not finished below third in its last five events.
"The success that our team has had this season has come from a lot of guys pitching in and playing solidly week in and out," said Green. "There were times when maybe one or two of them didn't play their best on a given day, but someone else on the team, or two or three others, would pick up the slack. And even if a guy didn't play his best, he would still put up a competitive number and that determination and 'never lose your focus' attitude always helps the team. Every one of our guys has been contributing. That really goes a long way and explains our team's consistency tournament after tournament."
Senior Wes Roach has helped anchor the Duke lineup along with the help of a talented sophomore class of Brinson Paolini, Julian Suri and Tim Gornik. All four players have a stroke average ranging from 72.2 to 72.6 and have combined for 25 top 20 finishes on the year. Roach has a 72.6 stroke average with eight rounds of under-par golf this season. He ranks among the school leaders in several categories, including tournaments played, rounds played and stroke average.
Paolini, a 2011 All-ACC selection, has a team-best 72.2 stroke average with three top 5 and four top 10 finishes. He has played in all 10 tournaments for the Blue Devils and has nine under-par rounds and five even-par rounds for the year. Suri boasts a 72.4 stroke average with a pair of top 5 showings. He has elevated his play over the past three tournaments posting a 70.4 stroke average with six rounds of under-par golf. The St. Augustine, Fla., native leads the team with 10 under-par rounds and has shot even-par or better in 12 of his 24 rounds played. Gornik also owns a 72.4 stroke average and is tied for the team lead with seven top 20 finishes. He is coming off a competitive course record 66 (-6) in the final round of the NCAA East Regional.
Freshman Austin Cody rounds out the Duke lineup for the NCAA Championship. He has two top 20 finishes and a 73.7 stroke average for the season.
"We're fortunate enough to have a team with very good depth," Green continued. "A team can have sporadic success with just one star or two carrying the load day after day throughout the year. But we've got a number of players capable of doing that and that's the key to our success this spring. It's the same type of advantage that is going to serve us well when we get out to the national championship. You know every hole and every day you play is going to be a challenge so if you're attitude is positive, you're ready for and enjoy the challenge, and you know each one of your teammates is ready in the same way, then there is a level of confidence that is well-deserved and perfect for team success. That describes our players."
Host Oklahoma State earned the No. 1 seed overall and will be paired with UCLA (2) and Alabama (3) for the first and second round of play. Georgia Tech is the four-seed and will play with Florida (5) and Augusta State (6). San Diego State is the seventh-seed following by Texas A&M (8), Illinois (9), LSU (10), Texas (11), Georgia (12), Iowa (13), Duke (14), Michigan (15), USC (16), Arkansas (17), California (18), San Diego (19), N.C. State (20), Oklahoma (21), Arizona State (22), Ohio State (23), Tennessee (24), Kent State (25), Kennesaw State (26), Pepperdine (27), Northwestern (28), Arizona (29) and Colorado State (30).
The top eight teams after three rounds (54 holes) of stroke play advance to the match play portion of the tournament. Duke has not advanced to match play since that format was adopted in 2009. The Blue Devils have had match play success in 2010-11 claiming the Callaway Collegiate Match Play Championship with wins over Texas, East Tennessee State, USC and Illinois as well as a win over TCU during the fall.
Live scoring, stats and tee times for the NCAA Championship are available at www.golfstat.com.