EVANS, Ga. — Two golfers with Duke ties will be a part of the 30 women’s amateur golfers competing Saturday for the first time at the historic Augusta National Golf Club in Augusta, Ga.
Blue Devil sophomore Jaravee Boonchant and incoming freshman Erica Shepherd finished tied eighth and tied 19th, respectively.
“I’m real proud of Jaravee and Erica for making it,” said Duke head coach Dan Brooks. “They’ve handled the pressure and the hype very well. Champions Retreat was a good test - plenty long and fast greens. To be in the top 30 of the 72 best in the world - with Augusta National riding on it. That’s quite an accomplishment.”
Boonchant, who hails from Bangkok, Thailand, carded her second straight round of even par on her way to placing tied for eighth with a 144. She got going early by draining a 10-footer for birdie on No. 11, but came back with a bogey on No. 12. She sank a nine-foot birdie on No. 14 to get back in the red, but suffered her second bogey of the day on No. 16. Boonchant went on to make the turn at even par.
“I hit it pretty solid [today] and I made some putts,” commented Boonchant. “I missed some up-and-downs, but I am pretty happy with how I played today.”
She opened her back nine, which were holes 1-9, with an up-and-down par. Boonchant then had bogeys on No. 2 and No. 6, but made some clutch putts on the way in to clinch her spot in the top 30. She had a three-foot birdie on the 245-yard, par four seventh and then hit her 7-iron from 147 yards to nine feet and drained the birdie to move back to even par for the day. She hit 10 fairways, 11 greens and rolled 29 putts.
“I am really excited for Augusta on Friday and Saturday,” said Boonchant. “I have been looking forward to this week since I got the invitation. I am really excited about playing there.”
Shepherd grinded through her round Thursday as she couldn’t get many putts to drop. She opened her day by missing the fairway on No. 1 and suffering a bogey. Shepherd, a native of Greenwood, Ind., added bogeys on No. 4 and No. 6 as she made the turn at three-over, 39. On the back nine, she notched five consecutive pars, before turning in a good bogey save on the 325-yard, par four 15th.
“I saw the scoreboard off of 10 green and I made sure I saw it before I hit,” said Shepherd. “I told myself I needed to birdie one of the last two holes to be for sure it in. I kind of like putting that pressure on myself to be safe than sorry. That was my mindset over the last three holes.”
Standing at three-over-par for the tournament and four-over for the day, Shepherd went to hole No. 16 and two-putted for par. After her playing partners missed the green on the challenging 175-yard, par three 17th, Shepherd calmly hit her 4-iron just past the pin and two-putted for par once again. Needing a birdie on the last hole to solidify her spot in the top 30, Shepherd went for the par five 18th green and found the greenside bunker. She hit a great sand shot and connected on the short birdie to finish with a 75. Over the two days, Shepherd shot 71 and 75 for a 146, which was tied 19th. She hit 12 fairways, 11 greens and rolled 31 putts.
“It feels so good,” said Shepherd on advancing on to Saturday’s round at Augusta National. “Today was kind of a rough day. I never got any momentum going really. So to finally get something on the last hole felt good. It felt good. It was a long day of grinding.”
Jennifer Kupcho turned in a five-under, 139, through 36 holes and leads the individual action.
After shooting a 77 in round one, Duke freshman Gina Kim signed for a one-over, 73, in the second round on her way to placing tied 40th. She played her first nine holes, 10-18, at even par with back-to-back birdies on No. 13 and No. 14. Kim closed the day with a one-over score, including a birdie on the par five ninth.
Blue Devil junior Ana Belac also rebounded from a frustrating first round with a one-over, 73, that included four birdies over a stretch of five holes on the front nine. She had her irons dialed in hitting approach shots on No. 3 to five feet and No. 5 to three feet. Belac, who is from Portoroz, Slovenia, drove the 245-yard, par four seventh green and two-putted for birdie as well. She finished tied for 52nd with a 153.
"Obviously, it was a good experience," said Belac. "I was disappointed yesterday with my round, but today was a different game."
Senior Virginia Elena Carta turned in a two-over, 74, on her way to placing tied 52nd as well with a 153, after struggling on day one. A product of Udine, Italy, Carta turned in two birdies, one on each nine, on No. 9 and No. 14.
“Virginia, Gina, and Ana had better rounds today,” commented Brooks. “Although they didn’t make the cut I’m proud of them for playing hard to the end.”
Duke is one of seven schools to feature two golfers in the final round Saturday – Arizona State, Florida State, Furman, Georgia, Texas and Southern California.
On Friday, all five Duke golfers will get to play a practice round at the famed Augusta National Golf Club, but the course will be closed to patrons. Tee times for Saturday’s practice round have not been released.