ATHENS, Ga. -- In more ideal scoring conditions on Tuesday at the NCAA Athens Regional, the No. 2-seeded Duke men’s golf team barked back at the University of Georgia Golf Course, and charged to second place with 18 holes remaining on Wednesday.
The Blue Devils carded the lowest team round of the Athens Regional as their eight-under 276 on Tuesday tied the program’s third-lowest round all-time in the regional format. At three-under par through 36 holes, Duke enters Wednesday’s final round just one stroke back of host Georgia, and five clear of top-seeded Vanderbilt.
Another full team effort boosted the Blue Devils on Tuesday, with all five golfers shooting even-par or better on the 7,253-yard, par 71 course. On Monday, each of the Blue Devils shot two-over or better in windy and challenging conditions.
Junior Steven DiLisio led the way with his three-under 68 – a career-best postseason round, followed by a pair of two-under rounds from senior Alex Smalley and junior Chandler Eaton. Sophomore classmates Evan Katz and Adrien Pendaries shot 70 and 71, respectively.
With all five golfers placed 15th or better, Duke and Texas (Austin Regional) are the only teams competing in the six regional sites to have each of their five golfers in the top 20 through 36 holes.
“Really to have all five guys right there in a position to count for us two days in a row, that’s what you want at Regionals,” said head coach Jamie Green, who has his team positioned to advance to the NCAA Championship for the third consecutive season and fourth time since 2015. “You don’t want to have to scratch and claw. Today they played in a way that showed their confidence, and showed their belief in themselves and each other.”
DiLisio had the low round of the day for Duke, posting a three-under 68 that included three birdies on the back nine. His 36-hole total of one-under 141 has the Swampscott, Mass., native in a group tied for seventh place.
“Today was all about staying patient,” said DiLisio. “I had a lot of chances, but didn’t make a few of them. I had a lot of good shots from tee to green. So I’ll really try and keep the same game plan and hope a few more will fall tomorrow.”
Joining DiLisio in that group tied for seventh are teammates Smalley and Eaton, who each posted rounds of two-under 69 after rounds of 72 on Monday. Eaton closed strong on Tuesday, bouncing back from a 37 on the front to birdie 11, 12, 14 and 18, making a long putt for birdie on the tough par-4 finishing hole. Smalley’s card on Tuesday featured four birdies, 12 pars and just two bogeys.
As a team, Duke was nine-under on the back nine in the second round with 14 collective birdies.
“They played really well all day, but especially on the back nine,” said Green. “As a group, there were some red numbers on the board, and they were feeding off each other. Our guys don’t necessarily follow scores, but you can see enough of your teammates on the back nine and can tell they’re playing well.”
A pair of Georgia Bulldogs – Spencer Ralston and Davis Thompson -- share the 36-hole lead at four-under with three golfers at three-under par. The three Blue Devils at one-under join a group of seven golfers that are three strokes off the pace.
Georgia followed its first-round 284 with a 280 on Tuesday and at four-under leads Duke by one. Vanderbilt (+2) is five back of Duke, with Liberty (+14) 12 shots behind the Commodores. A group of four teams – Tennessee, SMU, Memphis and Nevada sit tied for fifth at 17-over.
With the low five teams in the regional looking to advance to Fayetteville, Ark., for the NCAA Championship, Wednesday’s final round is underway at 7:30 a.m. Duke, Georgia and Vanderbilt are scheduled as the first teams on the course in the morning.
t7. Alex Smalley (72-69=141, -1)
t7. Chandler Eaton (72-69=141, -1)
t7. Steven DiLisio (73-68=141, -1)
t15. Adrien Pendaries (72-71=143, +1)
t15. Evan Katz (73-70=143, +1)
1. Georgia (284-280=564, -4)
2. Duke (288-276=565, -3)
3. Vanderbilt (286-284=570, +2)
4. Liberty (294-288=582, +14)
t5. Tennessee (290-295=585, +17)
t5. SMU (297-288=585, +17)
t5. Memphis (292-293=585, +17)
9. Campbell (300-287=587, +19)
10. Kentucky (294-294=588, +20)
11. Alabama (302-294=596, +28)
12. UNCW (301-302=603, +35)
13. Princeton (309-307=616, +48)