LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Senior Alex Smalley went wire-to-wire, as did the No. 18 Duke men’s golf team, which swept the individual and team trophies in record fashion at the Louisville Cardinal Challenge this weekend.
The Blue Devils out-paced 15 other teams, including three ranked in the top 25, in winning the 38th team tournament under 10th-year head coach Jamie Green and the 16th since 2012. En route to the title, Duke broke the program’s scoring records for 18, 36 and 54 holes.
Smalley, who claimed an individual title for the second time in his career, also set the Blue Devils scoring records for 36 and 54 holes. Duke opened Friday with a team-record 257 (-27), and followed that with rounds of 277 and 281 on the weekend to claim a 17-stroke win over host Louisville.
“It was a complete team performance this weekend,” said Green. “It’s not always easy after such a great round on the first day to back it up. Expectations are hard to ignore. So we’re proud of them for being able to keep the ship moving forward. There were some really good bounce-back birdies, smart decisions, and clutch par by our guys, and that says a lot about the resilience of the team. There’s no question the first-day scoring was easier, but our guys just dominated.”
Smalley followed his 61 -- the second-lowest score in Duke history and one shy of the NCAA’s single-round record of 60 set by Duke’s Michael Schachner in 2007 – with sub-par rounds of 66 and 70 on the weekend to hold off Mississippi State’s Tanapat Pichaikool by four. Pichalikool had pulled to within one of Smalley with three birdies on the opening five holes, but Smalley matched his birdie on the fifth and never looked back.
“Today was the toughest day of the three,” said Smalley. “The pins were tucked on slopes and it was pretty windy. I was proud of finishing off the win especially, and had to hang in there and played for fairways and greens. It feels great to get the individual win, and we played great as a team all week. We got off to a stellar start on Friday and never looked back. Everyone contributed in a big way.”
His 36-hole score of 15-under and his 54-hole score of 16-under each established new Duke records. The team’s previous 36-hole mark of 12-under was set by Smalley last season, while the 54-hole record of 14-under was set by now-PGA Tour member Ryan Blaum in 2006.
“We’re thrilled for Alex,” said Green. “He works hard day in and day out. He’s definitely in a leadership role this year, but he’s a guy that prefers to lead by example. There’s no better way to do that than to win titles and break records -- and do it with poise. He showed great maturity and performed like the terrific college veteran that he is. He had timely birdies this weekend, including big runs of them, but his rock-solid pars were sometimes just as impressive. He just kept putting pressure on the course and the other players in the field couldn’t keep up. His rhythm was unbelievable all 54 holes.”
With rounds of 68, 69 and 71, junior Chandler Eaton finished in a tie for eighth at five-under par, along with sophomore Adrien Pendaries (64, 70, 74).
In Sunday’s tough conditions, sophomore Evan Katz posted the tournament’s low round of the day with a five-under par 66. The 66, which matched his career low round, included six birdies. Katz finished in a tie for 10th with his four-under 209.
Junior Qi wen Wong, playing as an individual, strung together three consecutive rounds of even-par 71 to finish in a tie for 24th. Sophomore Harrison Taee was tied for 65th at eight-over par.
“Conditions were certainly tougher the last two days; it was winder and the hole locations got a bit more extreme,” said Green. “The conditions were the same for everyone in the field, but we increased the lead on Saturday and increased it again today There’s not much more you can do than that.”
The Blue Devils’ previous 18-hole scoring record was set in 2017 (267), while the previous 36-hole and 54-hole marks were set in 2016 (543, 826).
Duke is back in action Sept. 30 at the Nike Collegiate Invitational at the Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas.