BATON ROUGE, LA – On a picture perfect Monday in the Bayou State, Duke landed itself in the upper third of the leaderboard after carding a three-over-par 291.
The Blue Devils managed to shake off early setbacks that forced them to the bottom of the field, recovering nicely in the second half of the day thanks to some great looks on the difficult greens of the University Club (par 72, 7372 yards).
Finishing out the day on top was host Louisiana State University who shot an impressive 276 (-12), six strokes ahead of Virginia (282) and 11 strokes ahead of Oregon (287). Currently in fifth sits Kentucky (292), followed by Jacksonville (294), Jacksonville State (298), Northwestern (299), Arkansas (299), South Florida (302), Iowa (303), Georgia State (304), Loyola-Maryland (322) and Alabama State (346).
Leading the way for the Blue and White on Monday was sophomore Alex Smalley, who is coming off of a phenomenal ACC Championship effort. The Wake Forest, N.C. native secured a one-under-par 71 that was highlighted by four birdies, three of which dropped in on holes one through six, a stretch that featured no bogeys. Smalley would share a tie of eighth at the conclusion of the afternoon.
“Just been trying to focus on my ball striking, get the ball in play off the tee,” Smalley noted. “There are a couple holes where trees cut in a little bit so I think if you can get it off the tee, you'll be in pretty good shape. I got off to a little bit of a rough start, hit it into the water on 14, but bounced back pretty good after that and just kept the momentum rolling.”
Rounding out the day second in line for Duke was Alexander Matlari, who despite recording three bogeys through his first nine, managed to match that number in birdies on the final nine. The senior's 71 (-1) round was good enough for a share of 11th.
“I got off to a little bit of a slow start today with three bogeys on the front and only one birdie,” Matlari admitted, “but we all played a really solid back nine and were able to move up the leaderboard quite a bit.”
Teammates Jake Shuman and Chandler Eaton both tallied 74 (+2) performances for the day, as Shuman's trio of birdies would be overshadowed by three bogeys and a double bogey, and an Eaton eagle on No. 17 would be nullified as a result of a double bogey on No. 1 and a triple bogey on No. 7. Both would conclude the round tied for 22nd.
Senior Matt Oshrine finished fifth for the Blue Devils after garnering a five-over-par 77 that landed him tied for 48th on the leaderboard. The Baltimore, Md. local carded two birdies and seven bogeys.
In his reflections following the round, head coach Jamie Green commented on the pride he has in his team and their ability to remain steady from tournament to tournament; specifically, both Alex Smalley and Alexander Matlari, two Blue Devils who performed impressively in their most recent action prior to this week's regional.
“I think anytime you talk about a player being consistent, you're talking about time when you have breaks in between,” Green said. “For good players, it's really not that contingent. For them, we've had a little bit of a break since ACCs, but these are two of our guys who have played really solidly from start to finish this year and posted a lot of red numbers. For this team, to know that we had a couple of hiccups and we're still in pretty good position with two rounds to play is a good feeling.”
Day two action of the Baton Rouge NCAA Regional will begin promptly at 8 a.m. CST on Tuesday. Live scoring will be available via golfstatresults.com and updates will be provided via the official Duke Men's Golf Twitter account, @DukeMGOLF.