NEW ORLEANS, La. – In one of the toughest fields of the spring season, the 13th-ranked Duke women’s golf team turned in its best tournament of the year and snapped a 21-tournament winless drought on Tuesday as the Blue Devils carded a final round even-par, 288, to win the team title at the Allstate Sugar Bowl Intercollegiate Golf Championship, which was played at the 6,105-yard, par 72 English Turn Golf & Country Club.
“I couldn’t be more happy,” commented head coach Dan Brooks on winning the title. “It’s been a long time. We’ve been through a period where we didn’t have any wins. The passion was maybe down a little bit from last year. It seems like it has picked up in the spring and everybody realizes how special it is to be on a team that’s got the talent to do this kind of thing. Maybe it took a win for us to pull together and start talking about it a little bit more.”
Duke saved its best for last as the Blue Devils trailed Southern California by four strokes entering the final round, but carded 16 birdies in the final round to win by three strokes over Colorado. The Blue Devils posted rounds of 295, 294 and 288 for a total of 13-over-par, 877. Colorado (880), Southern California (881), Alabama (884), Baylor (887), Tulane (893), Texas A&M (896), Auburn (897), Oregon (897) and Florida (898) rounded out the top 10.
“I felt like right from start to finish that we played smart golf,” said Brooks. “This course demands that – small greens, wind blowing, we’re on Bermuda greens and we’re not used to that. We’ve been on fast, mid-grass greens. There were so many challenges to this and they just had to stay real tough. It seems like we did that right until the end. Today, we did it probably better than we did it the two other days, even though we were back.”
The victory for Brooks is his 111th of his career, which is the most of any Division I women’s golf coach in history.
Leading the Duke charge on Tuesday was the No. 1 ranked golfer in the nation Lindy Duncan, who carded a three-under-par, 69, to vault into fourth place individually. A native of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Duncan had three birdies and three bogeys to go along with three pars on the front nine as she made the turn at even par. She closed strong for the third straight day with birdies on the No. 11, No. 13 and No. 18 holes to finish with her eighth round in the 60s this season.
Duncan finished four strokes behind individual medalist Alex Stewart of Colorado (211). Oregon’s Cassy Isagawa (212), Southern California’s Lisa McCloskey (213) and Duncan rounded out the top four individuals. Duncan posted rounds of 73, 73 and 69 on her way to finishing with a 215. She hit 12 fairways, 12 greens and had 27 putts on the day. In five tournaments this year, Duncan has placed no lower than tied for sixth.
As a team, Duke registered four golfers finishing in the top 20 of the tournament for the first time this season and the first since last year’s ACC Championship. Other Blue Devils placing in the top 20 were Laetitia Beck (T9th), Stacey Kim (T14) and Courtney Ellenbogen (T16).
Beck, who is from Caesarea, Israel, tied for her best finish of the season with rounds of 74, 73 and 72 for a total of 219. On Tuesday, she held a one-under-par, ledger through the first 12 holes with a birdie on No. 7. Beck suffered her first bogey of the day on the 14th but responded with a birdie on No. 15. She closed with three pars and one bogey over her final four holes.
Collecting her best finish of the season at tied for 14th was Kim, who is a junior out of Columbus, Ga. She notched rounds of 74, 72 and 75 on her way to finishing with a 221. Kim struggled with her putting all day, but stuck her approach shots numerous times hitting 13 greens, 10 fairways and notching 34 putts.
Playing in her second tournament of the season in Duke’s lineup, Ellenbogen made the most of her opportunity as she closed with an even-par 72. She had rounds of 74, 76 and 72 for a 222 ledger over the 54 holes. Ellenbogen’s top 20 finish is the first for the junior since her freshman campaign. She opened her day with a par, bogey and birdie before rolling in another birdie on her fifth hole to move to one-under-par. Ellenbogen had setbacks on holes No. 8 and No. 9 with bogeys but closed the day very strong. She registered nine straight pars and rolled in a three-foot birdie on her final hole of the day, the 347-yard, par four first hole. Ellenbogen hit nine fairways, nine greens and sank a team-best 25 putts.
After totaling rounds of 82 and 79 the first two days, Cangrejo carded a 75 on the final day to finish tied for 61st with a 236. Cangrejo, a product of Bogota, Colombia, opened with three birdies on her first eight holes but also had three bogeys to remain at even par. She closed with eight pars, one bogey and one double-bogey to finish with a 75.
Playing as an individual, freshman Irene Jung finished tied for 64th with rounds of 78, 76 and 82 for a total of 237.
“When it was cold, as a spectator you’re colder than they are,” said Brooks on how the weather played into the last two days. “The wind that they played in yesterday is not that different than the wind today. They’re moving and locking and concentrating, so they’re probably not quite as cold. I’m not taking away from that experience, but I would say today wasn’t that much easier of a day as the other days. As we’re watching, we think ‘Well, it’s so cold out here,’ but I don’t think it was that much easier of a day. It was still a windy, gusty day. You could still become a victim of the wind today, so that was challenging.”
Duke will next play in the Suntrust Gator Women’s Golf Invitational on March 16-18 in Gainesville, Fla.