STILLWATER, Okla. – The Duke men's golf team, having finished among the top six at the Raleigh NCAA Regional last week, earned itself a trip to the 2018 NCAA Championship at Karsten Creek Golf Club (par 72, 7,460 yards).
The tournament, hosted by Oklahoma State, is slated to take place from Friday, May 25 to Wednesday, May 30.
Joining Duke (23) in the championship will be Oklahoma State (1), Texas A&M (2), Oklahoma (3), Vanderbilt (4), Alabama (5), Florida (6), Auburn (7), Illinois (8), Baylor (9), Texas Tech (10), Clemson (11), Texas (12), North Carolina (13), Brigham Young (14), Kansas (15), Stanford (16), Arkansas (17), Arizona State (18), UNLV (19), North Florida (20), Kentucky (21), UCLA (22), Kent State (24), Oregon (25), Northwestern (26), NC State (27), Iowa State (28), Central Florida (29) and Augusta (30).
The Blue Devils will be returning to the event for the third time in the last four years, having most recently participated in 2017 at Rich Harvest Farms in Sugar Grove, Ill.
It was there that Duke would post an 888 (298-292-298, +24) to finish the week at 22nd.
Duke has also seen great success this season and especially as of late, finishing no lower than fifth dating back to February. In that span, the Blue Devils captured back-to-back tournament wins at the D.A. Weibring Intercollegiate in Normal, Ill. and the Stitch Intercollegiate in Cary, N.C. to round out the regular season.
Duke is most recently coming off a second-place finish at the Raleigh NCAA Regional where it shot a 22-under 830.
Three consecutive rounds of under-par play—including a 12-under second round that proved to be the best team performance of the day—helped the Blue Devils punch their ticket to Oklahoma after successfully navigating a challenging Lonnie Poole Golf Course.
Shuman’s second round of 64 (-7) established a new team-low for the 2017-18 campaign, eclipsing Smalley’s previous mark of 65, a feat the junior had accomplished once in the fall and again this spring.
It was Smalley, however, that helped make the final push for Duke in the last round, starting his day with five birdies through six holes. Down the stretch, Smalley nailed a birdie-eagle sequence on 14 and 15, solidifying Duke’s chances of advancing to Karsten Creek.
The junior will enter the NCAA Championship leading the team in stroke average, a category he has led for most of the season (including the entirety of April and May).
Alex Smalley, who finished the NCAA Regional tied for 10th after signing for a 207 (-6), will lead the way for the Blue Devils as he has for much of the season. The Wake Forest, N.C. native currently boasts a team-best 70.52 stroke average, a statistic that has equated to five top-5 finishes, two top-10 finishes and two top-20 finishes, as well as a current No. 37 individual national ranking according to Golfweek as of May 17.
Recently earning All-ACC honors for the second straight year, Smalley has earned his spot in the conversation of best golfers in the nation, having thrived in one of the most talent-packed conferences in the country.
Playing solidly in his sophomore campaign, Chandler Eaton will return for his second NCAA Championship. The second-year Blue Devil—an All-ACC selection in 2017—had one of his best tournaments of the season in early April of this year, 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 71.67 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.
Senior Jake Shuman will enter as the most seasoned veteran in the lineup, serving as the only Blue Devil on the current roster to have participated in four ACC Championships, four NCAA Regionals and three NCAA Championships (with the fourth this week).
Shuman had one of the best tournaments of his golfing career earlier this month, capturing the crown at the Mackenzie Tour – PGA Tour Canada Qualifying Event at Crown Isle Resort after shooting an 18-under 270 through 72 holes. As a result, Shuman earned full exemption status for the 2018 season.
Through nine tournaments with Duke, he holds a 71.81 scoring average.
Coming off two top-10 finishes and two top-20 finishes, Adrien Pendaries has been lights out heading into the NCAA Championship. Similar to first-year counterpart Evan 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, all before making the ACC Championship and NCAA Regional lineups in his first opportunity. In those 10 events, the first-year Blue Devil has garnered three top-10 finishes and three top-20 finishes, including a T-13 result at the NCAA Regional.
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 tournaments in terms of stroke total were the Stitch Intercollegiate and the NCAA Regional where he carded 208s.
Evan Katz will look to build on an already-successful freshman year, entering this week with a 72.25 stroke average. 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. At the ACC Championship, Katz shot a four-over 220.
Katz owns the lowest 54-hole performance for Duke this season, capturing a 204 (-9) last fall at the Hummingbird Intercollegiate as an individual.
THINGS TO KNOW
- The Blue Devils have won two tournaments in 2017-18 (back-to-back victories in April)
- As of May 17, Alex Smalley is the highest-ranked Blue Devil in the Golfstat rankings (37th)
- Duke has secured three top-3 finishes in the NCAA Regional in the last four years
- Duke reached the semifinals of the 2011 NCAA Championship at Karsten Creek, its best finish
Live scoring for the tournament will be available via golfstatresults.com.