STILLWATER, Okla. - The Duke men's golf team had their season come to a close on Saturday with a 3-2 loss to Georgia in the NCAA Championship Match Play Semifinals. The Blue Devils ended the year with three tournament victories and reached match play at the NCAA Championship for the first time in school history.
Sophomore Julian Suri posted a 3 & 2 win over T.J. Mitchell to improve to 5-0-1 on the year in match play. The St. Augustine, Fla., native grabbed an early lead with a birdie on the par 4 second hole before Mitchell responded with a birdie on the No. 2. Suri fell 1-down on No. 6 but birdied the par 4 eighth hole to square the match. After dropping the par 5 ninth hole with a bogey, Suri posted birdie wins on No. 10, No. 11 and No. 12 to go 2-up in the round. He won his fourth straight hole with a par on No. 13 and parred out to secure the 3 & 2 victory.
Senior Wes Roach closed out his Duke career with a 2 & 1 victory over Hudson Swafford. Swafford won the opening hole of the day before Roach recovered to post par wins No. 3, No. 5, No. 6 and No. 7 to go 3-up. After dropping a hole on No. 11, he birdied the par 4 12th hole to regain a three hole cushion. Swafford battled back to win No. 13 and No. 14 but Roach matched his par on No. 15 and grabbed a 2-up lead with a par on the par 4 16th hole. Roach tapped in a bogey putt on No. 17 to match his opponent and secure the victory.
"This has been a lot of fun and I am extremely proud of this team," said Roach. "A lot of people never thought we could accomplish some of the things we did this year. Winning three events this spring was awesome and cements our team as one of the best in Duke golf history. I am proud to be a part of that and I am also a little jealous that these other four guys have a couple more years to play college golf. I know they have a lot of great things ahead of them and they will be right back here next year and the year to follow."
Austin Cody, a freshman from North Charleston, S.C., dropped a 2 & 1 decision against Bryden MacPherson on Saturday. He dropped the opening hole but bounced back to win No. 2 and No. 3 with pars to go 1-up. Cody dropped holes No. 6, No. 8 and No. 9 to fall to 2-down at the turn. He battled back with wins on No. 10 and No. 11 to square the match but again slipped to 2-down following a bogey on No. 13 and a MacPherson birdie on the par 3 15th hole. Cody responded to win No. 16 to trim the deficit in half with two holes remaining. He suffered a bogey on No. 17 to end the match and close the season with a 5-1-1 record in match play competition.
Sophomore Tim Gornik battled throughout the day before falling 3 & 2 to Russell Henley. After dropping the first hole, he grabbed par wins on No. 3 and No. 4 to go 1-up through four holes. Henley evened the match on No. 5 but Gornik retook the 1-up edge with a par on the par 3 seventh hole. Henley grabbed wins on No. 8 and No. 10 to go 1-up. The two players parred the next three holes before Henley moved to 2-up with a birdie on No. 14. After both players parred No. 15, Gornik was unable to get up and down from a difficult greenside lie on No. 16 and conceded a short par putt to Henley to end the match and Duke's outstanding postseason run.
Brinson Paolini, an honorable mention All-America, fell to Harris English, 5 & 4, in the semifinals. The Virginia Beach, Va., native fell behind early as his Georgia counterpart birdied the par 5 first hole. Paolini carded a birdie on the par 3 third hole to square the match and parred No. 5 to go 1-up on the day. English recovered to win the next four holes to take control of the match. Paolini was unable to get any closer as English grabbed wins on No. 11 and No. 14 to end the match.
"We had an absolute blast," said head coach Jamie Green. "There was a lot of energy and a lot of fist pumping. Their eyes were focused; you could see that their jaws were set, they were determined, they hit fabulous golf shots and made great decisions but ultimately we have to take our hats off and congratulate the University of Georgia golf team. Those guys played really well today. The wind wasn't quite as heavy and those guys took advantage of it just a little more than we did. Our guys still played very solid golf, but it just wasn't quite enough to tip the scales and get three wins."
Georgia advances to the NCAA championship match where they will face defending champion Augusta State, who topped host Oklahoma State, 3-2, in Saturday's other semifinal.
"Obviously, it is a disappointment not to continue on but we are certainly proud of our accomplishments," added Green. "We know that there are an awful lot of teams that didn't get nearly where this team ended up finishing the year. We had to forge through some battles to get here and that is something that these guys will take with them over the summer and on to next year."