TULSA, Okla. – Dealing with extremely high winds on the first day of the NCAA Championship, the third-ranked Duke women’s golf team turned in a 13-over-par, 293, and sits tied third through 18 holes at the 6,174 yards, par 70 Tulsa Country Club in Tulsa, Okla.
The Blue Devils are only five shots off the lead with 54 holes remaining. Oklahoma opened the championship with an eight-over-par, 288, and leads by three strokes over UCLA (291), while Duke (293), Southern California (293), Arizona State (293), California (296), Arizona (298), Washington (299), Ohio State (299) and Stanford (300) round out the top 10 teams.
“I am real proud of the team,” commented Duke head coach Dan Brooks. “I spent the last five minutes just trying to make sure that they were not feeling beaten down and discouraged at all. It was really hard golf. I loved this championship level challenge today. The wind, the golf course. Even if the wind doesn’t blow like this, we are going to find out who the best team is.”
As a team, Duke remained around the top of the leaderboard for most of the day and made the turn at one-over-par. The Blue Devils opened the afternoon on hole 10 and were faced with wind gusts over 30 miles per hour most of the round. Duke went through a tough stretch on the final nine holes where the Blue Devils lost 10 shots on holes 4-8. As a team, Duke rolled in 11 birdies on the day.
“We were handling this stuff really, really well for the first three quarters of this round,” said Brooks. “When the wind blows across on our final holes, it got us a little bit but it got everybody a little bit. All the tournament scoring changed a lot right there towards the end.”
Sophomore Celine Boutier continued her solid play Tuesday by carding an even-par, 70, and is only three shots off the individual lead held by Doris Chen of Southern California (67), Tonje Daffinrud of Denver (67) and Lauren Kim of Stanford (67).
“Celine is playing such good golf,” said Brooks. “The shot on six out into the water is not at all like her. Everybody is capable of making a mistake. She normally shines when she has a strong wind in her face and a tough shot ahead of her. Just one got away from her. That is it.”
Boutier kicked off her day with four birdies over her first eight holes and held the individual lead at four-under-par through eight, following a 35-foot birdie putt on the 155-yard, par three No. 17. A product of Montrouge, France, Boutier suffered a bogey on No. 18 to drop back into a share of the lead as she made the turn.
“It’s hard to play in wind, but I think the most difficult part is adjusting your short game,” commented Boutier. “I think chipping and putting affects me the most when it’s windy. I think I really managed to keep it good so that helped me.”
With a birdie on the 538-yard, par five third hole, Boutier moved back into a share of the lead at four-under where she stayed until the very challenging 161-yard, par three sixth hole. The ACC Player of the Year hit her tee shot to the right into the water and finished with a triple-bogey, six, to drop her back to one-under-par. Boutier suffered a bogey on the following hole and then closed with two pars to finish with a 70, which is tied eighth overall. She totaled a team-best and season-low 25 putts, hit 11 fairways and 10 greens.
Coming off finishing in the top 10 at the ACC Championship and the NCAA East Regional, freshman Sandy Choi turned in a two-over-par, 72, and is tied 13th overall after round one. She opened her day with back-to-back pars and then carded two straight birdies to move to two-under-par. Choi suffered a three-putt bogey on No. 5 and closed the first nine with four consecutive pars to make the turn at one-under-par. On the back nine, Choi had bogeys on No. 1, No. 4, No. 5 and No. 7, before draining a 20-foot birdie putt on the 390-yard, par four eighth hole. She finished the day with a great up-and-down from off the green. Choi hit 10 greens, 11 fairways and had 30 putts on the afternoon.
Freshman Yu Liu carded a five-over-par, 75, Tuesday and is tied 41st with three days remaining. Liu, who is out of Beijing, China, suffered a bogey on No. 11 and then missed the green off the tee on the 175-yard, par three 14th on her way to suffering a double-bogey to drop to three-over-par. She went on to play the next eight holes at two-under-par, but finished the day four-over-par over her final five holes. Liu hit 11 greens, eight fairways and had 34 putts on the day.
Duke’s two seniors, Laetitia Beck and Alejandra Cangrejo, added rounds of 76 and 79, respectively. Beck, who is a native of Caesarea, Israel, was held without a birdie on the first day. She made the turn at five-over-par, 75, but closed the day with a one-over-par, 36. Beck hit four fairways, 11 greens and had 32 putts in the first round. Cangrejo totaled one birdie on the ninth hole, while hitting nine fairways, eight greens and rolling in 33 putts.
Duke will tee off Wednesday in the second round starting at 7:30 a.m., off hole No. 1 along with Mississippi State and Arizona State.
“We are going to do exactly what we did today,” said Brooks. “They stayed tough and they stayed patient. That is all we can do.”
• Duke won its first NCAA Championship at the Tulsa Country Club in 1999 and has gone on to win a total of five titles (2002, 2005, 2006, 2007). • The Blue Devils had eight birdies over their first nine holes and three on the final nine. • Celine Boutier totaled her team-best 17th round of even or under par this season.