DURHAM, N.C. – Having won its last two tournaments, No. 29 Duke men’s golf will aim to keep the momentum rolling as the Blue Devils seek their ninth ACC Championship in school history.
Entering the weekend as the defending champions, a Duke title would be the first conference repeat since Georgia Tech in 2014 and 2015.
The championship makes its return to the Old North State Club (par 72, 7,102 yards) in New London, N.C. after taking a year hiatus to visit the links of Musgrove Mill Golf Course in Clinton, S.C. where the Blue Devils secured their first conference title since 2013. It was there that Duke paced the field in dominating fashion, reclaiming its crown thanks to a 12-stroke advantage.
Freshmen newcomers Adrien Pendaries and Evan Katz—both of whom have combined for four top-10 finishes and two top-5 finishes this season—will join the aforementioned veterans as they collectively open up action on Friday morning.
The Blue Devils are fresh off a record-setting performance in the Stitch Intercollegiate at Cary, N.C., where the same lineup put together one of the best weekends the program has ever seen. Saturday’s second round of 18-under golf proved to be the second lowest round ever compiled in Duke history.
Additionally, the 36-hole stretch from Saturday and Sunday that saw the Blue Devils shoot 32-under was the lowest score for that span in program history.
Also resulting in a new program low was the complete weekend effort of 36-under through 54 holes.
Alex Smalley, who finished his tournament in Cary last weekend with a share of second after signing for a 206 (-10), will lead the Blue Devils as the No. 1 man as he has for much of the season. The Wake Forest, N.C. native currently boasts a team-best 70.81 stroke average, a statistic that has equated to five top-5 finishes, a top-10 finish and a top-20 finish, as well as a current No. 40 individual national ranking according to Golfweek as of April 18.
An All-ACC selection last year, Smalley has earned his spot in the conversation of best golfers in the ACC, one of the most talent-packed conferences in the country. His performance in last year’s ACC Championship was nothing short of impressive, as the then-sophomore carded a four-under 212 to finish tied for fifth.
Similar to last year, coming in at No. 2 for Duke will be Chandler Eaton, who is having quite the sophomore campaign. The second-year Blue Devil—also an All-ACC selection in 2017—had one of his best tournaments of the season earlier this month, rounding out his weekend in Normal, Ill. at the D.A. Weibring Intercollegiate with a share of first (tied with teammate Adam Wood).
To this point in the season, Eaton’s 71.96 stroke average ranks second on the team. Maintaining a low average is something he has done consistently well since arriving to Duke. For most of his freshman season, he was at or near the top of that statistical category (among others), a feat that earned him a spot on the conference, regional and national championship lineups.
Evan Katz will look to build on an already-successful freshman year, entering this weekend with a 72.06 stroke average, third best on the team. The Washington, D.C. local saw great success in his final event of the regular season, departing the Stitch Collegiate with a T-5 finish after posting a nine-under 207.
Katz owns the lowest 54-hole performance for Duke this season, capturing a 204 (-9) last fall at the Hummingbird Intercollegiate as an individual.
Senior Jake Shuman will bring with him a gold mine of experience, serving as the only Blue Devil on the current roster to have participated in three ACC Championships (with the fourth this weekend), three NCAA Regionals and two NCAA Championships.
Shuman showed out this past weekend, notching a 209 (-7), T-11 result. Through seven tournaments, he holds a 72.14 scoring average and will look to secure his third straight top-10 finish in the conference tournament, an event he has had great success in. The 2016 tournament saw Shuman place second, and in 2017, tied for eighth.
Coming off consecutive top-10 finishes, Adrien Pendaries has found his groove at just the right time. Similar to teammate Katz, Pendaries has flourished in his freshman campaign, cracking the five-man lineup six times in the regular season and representing Duke as an individual twice. In those eight events, the first-year Blue Devil has garnered three top-10 finishes and a top-20 finish.
Pendaries’ best finish in terms of placement occurred at the start of April, where he rounded out the D.A. Weibring Intercollegiate with a T-7 result. His best tournament in terms of stroke total was last weekend’s Stitch Intercollegiate where he managed a 208 (-8).
ACC MEN’S GOLF CHAMPIONSHIP – FIRST ROUND PAIRINGS
9:00 - 9:48 a.m. = NC State, Louisville, Virginia (Seeds #7 – 9; Starting on Hole #10)
10:00 - 10:48 a.m. = Notre Dame, Virginia Tech, Boston College (Seeds #10 – 12; Starting on Hole #10)
9:00 – 9:48 a.m. = Florida State, Wake Forest, Duke (Seeds #4 – 6; Starting on Hole #1)
10:00 a.m. - 10:48 a.m. = Georgia Tech, Clemson, North Carolina (Seeds #1 – 3; Starting on Hole #1)
DUKE ACC CHAMPIONSHIP HISTORY
Team championship titles: 1954, 1959, 1961, 1962, 1966, 2005, 2013, 2017
Individual champions: John Abernethy (1962), Fred Ewald (1966), Thorny Hoelle (1969), Jason Widener (1990), Matt Krauss (1999), Ryan Blaum (2005)
THINGS TO KNOW
• Head coach Jamie Green is coming off a 2016-17 campaign in which he led his team to three tournament victories (including the ACC Championship) and a new program record for season scoring average (287.25).
• Duke is one of only two teams to have won multiple ACC Championship titles since 2005.
• Chandler Eaton’s 2016-17 season was one for the ages, as the then first-year Blue Devil established numerous Duke freshman records including rounds in the 60s (10), under-par rounds (16), even-par or better rounds (21), and top-5 finishes (tied with Jason Widener at 4).
• With 13 career top-5 finishes to date, junior Alex Smalley ranks second in Duke history in that statistic, trailing Chuck Taylor who tallied 17.
Live scoring will be available via golfstatresults.com, and coverage will be provided by ACC Network Extra.