PALM CITY, Fla. – The Duke men’s golf team wrapped up its spring break trip on Tuesday, finishing play in the third round of the Valspar Collegiate Championship at the Floridian National Golf Club (par 71, 7,114 yards).
The Blue Devils started off strong, climbing as high as third on the leaderboard and as a result, closing the gap between themselves and Oklahoma State. Late rallies from Florida State, Texas A&M and Georgia Tech, however, pushed Duke to a share of fifth after posting a two-over 286 to bring their overall score to 854 (+2).
Alex Smalley, who fell just short of an individual title, concluded an impressive tournament that resulted in a T-3 finish, tied for his season-best. The junior signed for yet another under-par round with his 70 (-1), making it three for the event. Smalley’s effort in Palm City consisted of 11 birdies in total, as well as an eagle on No. 15 in the first round.
“I started on the same hole as yesterday, so I felt comfortable at the start knowing I had some birdie chances coming,” said Smalley. “This tournament gives me confidence for the next couple of months because it was a tour level golf course with a really good field. As a team, we should all be proud because we showed that we can compete with every team here. We've got a lot to look forward to.”
Following the round, head coach Jamie Green spoke to the success that Smalley achieved this weekend, and what he believes is a strong contributor.
“During the last two and a half years of coaching and working with Alex, one thing I know is really clear is that he is very, very adaptable,” Green said. “He just figures it out. He finds out whatever he needs to do to get the ball to go from A to B. He draws the ball well, and in the past few days, he was reading the greens pretty well too.”
Senior Jake Shuman got things going early on Tuesday, notching a hole-in-one on No. 8 – his fourth hole of the day – shortly after recording a pair of birdies on Nos. 5 and 7. Shuman would be hit with a few bogeys later in the round, eventually bringing his score for the round to 71 (E) and overall score to two-over.
"Today was a fun day in some very windy conditions," said Shuman. "I knew I wanted to get off to another hot start before the wind really picked up, so I came out of the gates attacking pins. Coach Green and I were standing on 8, talking it through. In the air, I felt good about it since there was a touch of slope back left behind the pin. It started to trickle and take the slope. My parents were back by the green and I knew it was going to be good by how tentative they were watching it. A couple seconds later, it tracked down to the right and hit the stick. It was a very cool moment. I made a hole-in-one last fall at Inverness, but it was a touch uphill so I couldn't see it go in. This is my first hole-in-one in a tournament that I was able to see go in. It's something I won't forget."
Head coach Jamie Green also commented on Shuman’s play, citing a recent shift in his mental approach as a likely reason for his skillful command as of late.
“At Cabo, a goal of his was to improve his target lines,” said Green. “He wanted to be much more assertive, so it’s been good to see it pay off.”
Additionally, Green addressed the leadership of his senior, and how that influence has impacted the program.
“He doesn’t just lead on the golf course, he leads off it as well,” noted Green. “With the tone he sets in terms of practice and preparation, the guys know they can count on him.”
Finishing the day with a one-over 72 was Alpharetta, Ga. native Chandler Eaton, whose day was comprised of 14 pars as well as birdies on 8 and 13. The sophomore’s only blemishes were a bogey on 15 and double on 18. With the +1, Eaton’s score would move to five-over for the tournament.
Competing in his first tournament of the spring, Steven DiLisio tallied a four-over 75 that left him with a score of seven-over for the event. DiLisio’s day was highlighted by four birdies, including one on No. 13 that proved to be a gusty response to a double bogey from the hole before.
Freshman Adrien Pendaries finished up his event with a round of 73 (+2), a five-stroke improvement from Monday. Overall, Pendaries would finish at eleven over.
Final Leaderboard Rankings:
1. Oklahoma State (840, -12)
2. Florida State (845, -7)
3. Texas A&M (850, -2)
4. Georgia Tech (852, E)
T-5. Duke (854, +2)
T-5. Baylor (854, +2)
7. LSU (858, +6)
8. South Florida (861, +9)
9. Texas (862, +10)
T-10. Houston (865, +13)
T-10. Arkansas (865, +13)
12. Wake Forest (878, +26)
13. South Carolina (881, +29)
14. Pepperdine (883, +31)
15. UT Arlington (898, +46)
16. Lamar (926, +74)
Summarizing his thoughts on the tournament, head coach Jamie Green addressed what he believes the takeaways from this weekend should be for his team.
“I was impressed with how these guys responded,” said Green. “Maintaining belief and positivity throughout, and playing to their strengths. It’s nice to have validation with good scoring against strong teams. The guys believe they’re going to succeed, so it makes it a lot easier to make those good shots. To get off to the start that our guys did, not a lot of teams did that. It wasn’t just one or two guys, it was collective. You’re going to hit rough patches, but so much of this game is momentum and much of that is just attitude which these guys had and that’s to be commended.”
Duke’s next tournament will be at the end of the month –the D.A. Weibring Intercollegiate, set to take place at the Weibring Golf Club in Normal, Ill. from March 31 to April 1.