LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Senior Alex Smalley fired an opening-round, course-record 61, highlighting a record-setting Friday for the Duke men’s golf team, which leads the Louisville Cardinal Challenge after 18 holes at the UofL Golf Club.
Smalley, who shot 32 on the front, opened his back nine by ripping off six consecutive birdies before birdieing the par-4 18th hole to card the second-lowest 18-hole score in team history. His 61 leads the tournament by three strokes over teammates Harrison Taee and Adrien Pendaries, who are each tied for second. Only the 60 carded by Michael Schachner in the 2007 NCAA Championship is a lower round at Duke.
Duke’s first-round team score of 257 (-27) also paces the field by 11 strokes over Wake Forest and host Louisville. That 18-hole team score for the Blue Devils shattered the team record of 270, that was set last season.
“Obviously it was a really good day,” said Smalley. “I had a lot of wedges into holes today and I just happened to be dialed in with the distances. I think I had something like 11 birdie putts inside of 15 feet today and made a good number of them. Everything felt good today. I'm also really proud of the team. We shattered our team record from last year for lowest round, and now we have two more days to keep the pedal to the metal.”
It is the first career course record for Smalley, whose previous career-best 18-hole score was a 65. The 64’s fired by Pendaries and Taee were also career-best rounds. Taee and Pendaries each went out in 31 and closed in 33, with Pendaries posting an eagle on the par-5 17th to highlight his round.
“Today was a really cool day,” said Pendaries. “The energy level was very high and very positive. Every time I checked a leaderboard our team score just kept getting lower and lower, and it’s always a great feeling to break a team record.”
Also for Duke, Chandler Eaton sits in a tie for 12th after his opening-round of 68, while Evan Katz and Qi wen Wong each posted rounds of even-par 71.
“The preparation we’ve done in the limited time from last weekend to today was key,” said Taee. “Even before the round, we all knew today was going to be a good day. Personally, I felt prepared and comfortable on the course and my putter was rolling today.”
Duke’s last two competitive rounds have been played in 35-under par, which includes the 280 (-8) in the final round of the Rod Myers Invitational and Friday’s 257 (-27) at Louisville.
“We went out today and played with the same mindset the guys had during the final round of the Rod Myers – chasing down groups in front,” said head coach Jamie Green. “The guys felt a pretty strong surge of confidence, and that’s what we talked about here. Being the hunter, and having that element of attack. There are a few scoreboards out here, and we were playing well. The energy was great, and to see the numbers in red, it’s almost like they were chasing the golf course, but also chasing each other.”
The tournament continues with 18 holes of play on Saturday and Sunday morning.