BATON ROUGE, LA—With an impressive second-place finish on a difficult University Club course, Duke locked up its bid to the NCAA National Championship in Sugar Grove, Ill., advancing as one of the five qualifying teams in the Baton Rouge regional.
Concluding the event with a ten-over-par 874, the Blue Devils trailed only host Louisiana State University (866), while beating out Oregon (879), Virginia (881), Jacksonville (883), Northwestern (883), Kentucky (884), Arkansas (893), Georgia State (906), South Florida (913), Iowa (913), Jacksonville State (920), Loyola - Marland (930), and Alabama State (1015).
At the conclusion of 18 holes, Jacksonville and Northwestern entered a playoff to determine the fifth and final spot. On the second hole of sudden death, Jacksonville edged out Northwestern, eliminating the latter's hopes of participating in the NCAA Championship in its home state.
Leading the way for Duke on Wednesday and sharing the title of best overall Blue Devil performance in the tournament with his teammate Alex Smalley was freshman Chandler Eaton. The Alpharetta, Ga. native carded a two-over-par 74, pushing his overall score to an even 216, good enough for a tie for third in his first ever regional.
“I'm super excited that we get to go to the national tournament, especially my freshman year,” noted Eaton. “That was our goal. I'm really excited for the whole team, we've done a lot of work, we've all developed, and we've all been playing good.”
Alex Smalley shined once again, also finishing at even par for the event after recording a 74 (+2) on the afternoon. The sophomore opened up the day with back-to-back bogeys on the windiest day of the tournament, but managed to recover by snagging two birdies on the third and fifth holes. Smalley, like Eaton, finished tied for third.
“We weren't fortunate enough to get there last year, so I think it's great that everyone played really well this week,” Smalley said. “We came in second to the home team, so that makes us feel pretty good about the way we played and how we can compete with other teams at nationals.”
Senior Matt Oshrine finished third on the Blue Devil lineup with a 224 (+8) stroke total. He was unable to find the red in his first nine, but scored a birdie on the 11th hole to even out one of his two bogeys, finishing with a one-over-par 73. The Baltimore, Md. local rounded out his effort tied for 24th.
Despite garnering three birdies on the front nine, Alexander Matlari was unable to overcome four bogeys and a double bogey in his final round, equaling a 75 (+3) performance. The senior still was able to finish in the top half of the field (T35), having shot a 226 (+10) overall.
Jake Shuman finished his day with a 79 (+7), and a 227 (+11) stroke total. The junior's lone birdie came on hole No. 14, proving to be the only Blue Devil to record red on that particular hole on Wednesday. Shuman would go on to finish tied for 39th.
Head coach Jamie Green spoke on his players' performance following the tournament; specifically, their ability to stay even-keeled throughout.
“Obviously we're thrilled,” Green admitted. “You know, you get here with one goal in mind and that's to advance. It's a pressure cooker. I mean, I know a lot of coaches get a little uptight getting ready for this, but the players feel it out there too, and they get a little bit tense. I can't say enough about all the guys, and it wasn't something where any one player shouldered and carried us. We're looking forward to going back up to Chicago.”
The NCAA National Championship is set to take place Rich Harvest Farms GC from May 26-31. Live scoring will be available, and updates will be provided via Duke Men's Golf social media.