BATON ROUGE, LA—On the second day of the Baton Rouge NCAA Regional, Duke improved its chances of advancing to the NCAA Championship after finishing the afternoon as the only team at even par.
The Blue Devils reeled in a 288 (E) to keep themselves at three-over-par behind only host Louisiana State University (572) and give themselves a 10-stroke cushion from the fifth spot entering the final day of the tournament. With each regional, only the top five teams move on to the championship event in Sugar Grove, Ill.
After two days of play, Duke has pushed their stroke total to 579, and currently rest ahead of Virginia (580), Northwestern (588), Oregon (589), Kentucky (589), Jacksonville (594), Arkansas (600), Georgia State (603), Jacksonville State (611), Iowa (615), South Florida (618), Loyola – Maryland (618) and Alabama State (684).
Bouncing back from an opening round of (74) +2, Chandler Eaton served as Duke's low man and finished tied for fourth on day two, shooting a three-under-par 69. With his lone bogey coming on hole No. 2, the freshman saw nothing but birdies and pars thereafter, finding the red on Nos. 9, 11, 12 and 14. The Alpharetta, Ga. native's exceptional day was highlighted by 24 putts in a round marred by high winds that made it difficult to find greens in regulation.
“The birdies kind of came to me, I never forced anything,” Eaton said. “I had really good numbers into every hole, and when I didn't have a good number I didn't try and make something happen.”
Head coach Jamie Green once again expressed his appreciation for the way Eaton has handled himself in his rookie campaign, especially in the postseason.
“Today, he did just about everything right,” noted Green. “He hit shots close, and he put himself in the right place off the tee. He also converted some solid putts. For him to not just capitalize on the good shots that he hit, but to sustain the round when he might have hit an errant shot or got an unlucky break, it really goes to the maturity that he has.”
Alex Smalley continued his streak of success, carding a 71 (-1) that featured five birdies. A bogey-less back nine enabled the sophomore to finish his second day of action at 144 (-2) which proved to be good enough for a share of second on the leaderboard and one of only five scores under par.
“I kept giving myself looks, hit some good tee shots which set up some good approaches, didn't have a whole lot of stress out there,” observed Smalley. “I Had a couple of short putts that were tricky with the wind that I ended up making, so that kind of kept the momentum rolling.”
Head coach Jamie Green also noted Smalley's ability to simply make things happen on a consistent basis.
“Alex again showed why I think he's one of the best players in the country,” Green said. “He's the only player in the field right now—and this is a strong field, as all of these six regionals are—that has two rounds under par. The fact that he's able to play at that level day to day and lead the team the way he is, he showed that he's able to do things to score that are always the same.
Jake Shuman and Matt Oshrine both ended their days with 74 (+2) outputs, as Shuman would land himself tied for 18th at 148 (+4) overall and Oshrine tied for 33rd at 151 (+7) overall. The pair managed to garner three birdies each.
Alexander Matlari was unable to match his even-par effort from yesterday, shooting a 79 (+7) that also placed him at 33rd with teammate Oshrine. Despite tallying back-to-back birdies on 15 and 16, the senior dropped a triple bogey on 17 that would be followed by a bogey to end the afternoon.
Head coach Jamie Green spoke about the round shortly after, addressing the importance of mentality during this particular part of the season.
“Sometimes we like to think of the NCAAs as not just the national championship but regionals,” he said, “every shot you have out here is a part of that national championship. Thinking of it that way, it's a marathon. It takes a little time to get there. But today was brilliant for the guys. The wind picked up and the course was unquestionably more difficult today. It just kept getting a little firmer and faster and with hole locations that were tough to get to, you had to be extraordinarily patient. Their demeanor was great, they handled themselves well, they walked with confidence and talked calmly.”
The third and final day of the tournament is slated to begin tomorrow morning at 7:30 a.m. CST. Live scoring will be available via golfstatresults.com, and updates will be provided through the official Duke Men's Golf Twitter account, @dukemgolf.