GREENSBORO, N.C. – The third-ranked Duke women’s golf team opened the ACC Championship on Thursday with a seven-over-par, 291, and sits tied first along with Virginia with 36 holes remaining at the 6,107-yard, par 71 Sedgefield Country Club in Greensboro, N.C.
Duke, the reigning back-to-back ACC Champions, opened the day with a commanding lead with six birdies over its first four holes, but dropped back as the round went along. Virginia took as big as a two-shot lead late but the Blue Devils carded two birdies on the 486-yard, par five 18th to finish in a tie for first with the Cavaliers.
“I think we learned a little today,” said Duke head coach Dan Brooks. “We’ve got two freshmen in our lineup and they were playing some pretty good golf. You have to learn how to play this course. It is one of the toughest courses we play all year. I think we may pick it up a little bit tomorrow.”
Rounding out the field was Miami (298), North Carolina (299), Notre Dame (306), Maryland (306), Florida State (306), Clemson (307), NC State (308), Wake Forest (311) and Boston College (335). The teams dealt with frigid temperatures in the morning but warmed up as the day went along. Duke features three golfers in the top seven of the individual leaderboard.
“The greens have some grain in there and are very undulated. It is a Donald Ross course. The wind was blowing and it wasn't real warm, especially in the morning,” commented Brooks. “So that's enough to run your score up a little bit. I think tomorrow is going to probably be a similar day, maybe a little warmer. We have today behind us and I think we probably learned a little bit. I am counting on a better day tomorrow.”
Coming in with victories over her last two tournaments, sophomore Celine Boutier jumped out to an impressive start with three birdies over her first four holes. A native of Montrouge, France, Boutier made the turn with a three-under-par, 32, but suffered bogeys on No. 10, No. 13 and No. 14. She posted four straight pars to close her day, including missing a birdie putt on the 18th. Boutier hit 13 greens, 13 fairways and had 31 putts Thursday.
Florida State’s Matilda Castren leads the individual action with a two-under-par, 69. Boutier is tied with Lauren Coughlin and Briana Mao of Virginia for second.
Senior Laetitia Beck carded a one-over-par, 72, and is tied fifth overall heading into the second round of action. Beck, who is from Caesarea, Israel, opened her day with a par on the first hole and rolled in a short birdie putt on the 385-yard, par four second hole to move to one-under-par. She suffered bogeys on the third, sixth and 10th holes to drop to two-over-par, but closed with a tap in birdie on No. 18 to finish with a 71. Beck hit eight straight greens on the back nine and hit a total of 14 greens on the day, which was impressive as she hit only two fairways. She added 33 putts over the first round.
Posting one of Duke’s strongest starts of the day was freshman Yu Liu, as she opened with birdies on No. 1 and No. 3 to get to two-under-par. A product of Beijing, China, Liu then bogeyed three straight holes to drop back to one-over-par. She registered seven straight pars, before finishing with three bogeys and two birdies. Liu drained one of only six birdies all day on 445-yard, par five 15th, after hitting her second shot into the greenside bunker. She was on the green in two on the 18th and sank a birdie putt. Liu turned in a 73 for the day and is tied seventh overall. She hit 14 greens, eight fairways and had 35 putts during the first day.
Seeing action in her first ACC Championship, rookie Sandy Choi held a one-over-par ledger through 14 holes, but closed with bogeys on No. 15, No. 16 and No. 17 to finish with a 75, which is tied 14th overall. A native of San Diego, Calif., Choi turned in her lone birdie of the day on the 152-yard, par three 12th as she rolled in a six-footer. She hit 12 fairways, 11 greens and had 32 putts in her round.
Senior Alejandra Cangrejo, who finished second a year ago at the ACC Championship, struggled early on Thursday with double-bogeys on her first two holes. She made the turn with a seven-over-par, 42. Cangrejo, who is from Bogota, Colombia, played her final nine holes at one-over-par, which included a six-foot birdie on the 18th hole on her way to finishing with a 79. She hit seven greens, six fairways and had 32 putts on the day.
The Blue Devils carded a total of 12 birdies Thursday, seven on the front nine and five on the back.
“It helps that the last hole is a par five,” Brooks said about finishing strong. “I was glad we picked up some there. Virginia is doing well. We have a completion going on here. It is great.”
Duke will tee off on Friday in the second of three rounds beginning at 10:30 a.m., along with Virginia and Miami.