FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Saturday was moving day for the Duke women’s golf program as the Blue Devils carded an 11-under-par ledger to take the team lead before play was suspended at 12:15 p.m., local time due to incoming inclement weather.
At approximately 5 p.m., the NCAA committee announced there would be not more golf played Saturday and the tournament will resume action Sunday morning at 11 a.m. (ET). The tournament has also been shortened from 72 holes to 54 holes.
After shooting a 13-over-par, 305, in the opening round Friday, the Blue Devils came out on fire in the second round. Opening on hole No. 1 Saturday, Duke collected 13 birdies on the front nine and made the turn at six-under-par. The Blue Devils would keep the low numbers going on the second nine and took their first lead of the event at 11:37 a.m.
Duke has 13 birdies on the back nine with two golfers still having 1-2 more holes remaining. The Blue Devils feature 26 total birdies in round two so far, after registering 16 the day before, at the 6,397-yard, par 73 Blessings Golf Club in Fayetteville, Ark.
The team standings as of when play was suspended had the Blue Devils sitting at two-over-par and ahead of Southern California (+9) by seven strokes. Texas (+11), Arizona (+12), Arkansas (+13), Stanford (+14), Arizona State (+18), Washington (+19), Auburn (+20) and Purdue (+20) sitting in the top 10.
When play was stopped, all five Blue Devil golfers were under par and three of those finished the round – Ana Belac, Gina Kim and Virginia Elena Carta. Belac carded a four-under-par, 69, Kim signed for a three-under, 70, and Carta posted a two-under, 71.
Duke features three golfers in the top nine of the individual leaderboard and four in the top 15. Belac is tied third at one-under, 145, Miranda Wang is tied seventh at one-under, Jaravee Boonchant is tied ninth and Gina Kim is tied 15th with a two-over, 148.
Wang still has two holes remaining in her round, while Boonchant has one hole left. Both will tee off at 11 a.m. (ET) Sunday to close their second round. The rest of the field will also close their second round starting at 10 a.m. Following play Monday, the top eight teams will advance to match play.
Belac opened her day with a bogey on hole No. 1, but came right back to drain a 15-footer for birdie on No. 2 to return to even par. She would then par each of her next four holes, before two-putting for birdie on the par five seventh. Belac, who hails from Portoroz, Slovenia, had a sand save for par on No. 8 and then hit her sand wedge from 70 yards out to four feet and drained the birdie to make the turn at two-under, 35.
The two-time All-ACC selection collected back-to-back birdies on No. 10 and No. 11 as she stuck her approach shots to five feet and two feet, respectively. After a bogey on No. 13 and double-bogey on No. 14, Belac caught fire again as she two-putted from 10 feet on the 477-yard, par five 15th, made a par on No. 16 and then hit her 8-iron from 150 yards to one foot for birdie. On the 18th, Belac had nearly the same shot as the previous hole and nearly had the same result hitting her 8-iron from 150 yards to two feet for birdie.
She had a season-best 25 putts, while hitting 13 greens and 12 fairways.
Kim, who is from Chapel Hill, N.C., continued her solid play from the end of yesterday’s round to today as she was two-under-par through five holes with birdies on No. 2 and No. 5. After a bogey on No. 8, Kim sank an 18-footer for birdie on the 264-yard, par four ninth hole to make the turn at two-under, 35. She had a sand save for par on No. 11 and then suffered a bogey on No. 12.
An All-ACC selection as a rookie, Kim would drain an eight-footer for birdie on No. 15 and then sank a 12-foot birdie on No. 17 to finish the day with a three-under, 70. She collected 27 putts, 13 fairways and hit 12 greens in regulation.
With her lowest round of the spring season, Carta also had her fewest putts of the spring with a total of 30 Saturday. She featured Duke’s best start to the day with back-to-back birdies on No. 2 and No. 3 to get to two-under-par early. Carta stuck her approach shots to seven feet on the second hole and five feet on No. 3. She got in trouble on No. 4 and finished with a double-bogey and the had a bogey on No. 5 before regrouping.
Carta closed the back nine by two-putting for birdie on No. 7 and then hit her sand wedge from 69 yards away on No. 9 and drained a three-foot birdie to make the turn at one-under, 36. After four pars and a bogey over the first five holes on the back nine, Carta registered back-to-back birdies on No. 15 and No. 16 to get back to two-under. She two-putted for birdie on the par five 15th and then drilled a six-footer for birdie on No. 16. Carta, a product of Udine, Italy, had a nice up-and-down for par on No. 18 to close her day.
Boonchant, who is from Bangkok, Thailand, will tee off No. 18 Sunday to close her round, which currently is at two-under-par. She had collected four birdies, two on the front and two on the back, including a near hole out from the fairway bunker on No. 14.
A native of Beijing, China, Wang continues her outstanding play as she holds a two-under-par score through 16 holes. She notched eight straight pars to open her day, before rolling in a birdie on No. 9. She then birdied No. 13 and No. 14 to get to three-under. Wang suffered a bogey on No. 16 and has a par three and par four remaining to close her day.
Duke, a six-time NCAA Champion, has played the par fives this week at a 12-under-par ledger to lead the field, while also leading on par four holes as well with a +16 ledger. The 42 birdies are also a team best so far.
A total of 12 teams did not hit a shot Saturday due to the inclement weather.
Gina Kim, Duke, finished -3 today
On what went well today…
The course management in general was really good. My shots were much better than yesterday. Obviously, they weren’t perfect but that’s the game of golf and something that should be expected. I think my putting really closed the deal today and I’m happy with what I’ve been doing.
On the differences between today and yesterday…
The wind was still there today but I think the morning dew helped the golfballs sit a little better on the green. There was a small shower in the morning that softened the greens as well, so I was able to be a little more aggressive and land the ball in the spots I wanted to. That really helped us shoot low today.
On how today’s performance helps the final outlook…
It definitely puts us in a really good position for the next few days. Coach Brooks told us that there are a lot of opportunities out there so we need to be patient.
Dan Brooks, Duke head coach
On how yesterday prepared the team for today…
We’re not done yet so I haven’t had a chance to talk to the team and I don’t want to talk about a lot of things until we finish. I’m not sure exactly why the scores are so much lower today, but they’ve learned a lot about the golf course which probably helped.
On every Duke player coming in under par (at that point)…
They’re really talented players so I was more surprised at our score yesterday. The course is challenging and it was set up tough, but I’m not surprised when we come in under par.
On playing in the morning versus battling the weather…
I was happy to see that we were able to get play in this morning. We weren’t sure what the weather was going to look like this afternoon but I told the girls that we would likely come off the course at least once, and we came close to that not happening. We’ll just have to see moving forward.
Ana Belac, Duke, finished -4 today
On today’s round…
I was really patient out there, I tried to get as many solid hits as possible and I was able to get my puts to drops which was a huge difference from yesterday. My shots were really solid, especially on the back nine, so I had some birdies and that made the job easier.
On the key to taming the course…
A little bit of luck, and just being patient and making solid shots.
On all players coming in under par (to that point)…
It’s really exciting. We’re all great players, but we haven’t quite had it this year yet so maybe it’s our time to shine.