Duke was in historic form—until the wind blew. 

After posting the lowest 18-, 36- and 54-hole scores in school history at the Jim West Classic to open the season, the Blue Devils were blown off course in the Windy City. No Duke player finished under par, and the team slumped to end the Windy City Collegiate Classic 19-over-par. 

Now, the sixth-ranked Blue Devils will need to get back on track against a field that includes the nation’s top two teams—Arkansas and Alabama—in the Ruth’s Chris Tar Heel Invitational this weekend at UNC Finley Golf Course in Chapel Hill. 

“Chicago was a real learning experience,” Duke head coach Dan Brooks said. “You learn a lot when the wind blows. You learn how solid your game is when the wind blows. We learned we needed to do some work.” 

Senior Leona Maguire and freshman Jaravee Boonchant, who will be No. 1 and 4 in the lineup this week, respectively, were the only ones that didn’t fall off significantly at the Windy City Collegiate Classic, both grabbing top-15 finishes. 

A former first-team Rolex Junior All-American, Boonchant has shown no signs of being intimidated by the college stage thus far, combining to shoot 4-under-par in her first two tournaments and finishing tied for sixth at the Jim West Challenge. 

“She’s a hard worker, she’s talented, she’s a real pleasure to have on the team,” Brooks said. “She’s a lot of fun, but at the same time, there’s a lot of fire in there. It’s the combination you look for—someone that’s enjoyable but also has a lot of passion.”

Part of an elite recruiting class, Boonchant has provided Brooks some valuable depth in a lineup that was thin at times last season. 

The most highly-touted member of Brooks’ freshman class, former No. 1 amateur Hannah O’Sullivan, has yet to play due to a wrist injury and the sheer talent in a lineup that already includes 2016 individual national champion Virginia Elena Carta, the 2016-17 National Player of the Year in Maguire and Ana Belac, the former No. 1 junior golfer in Slovenia who carded four top-10 finishes last year. Belac will be in the No. 5 slot. 

“[O’Sullivan] is working through a couple of things, which happens in golf,” Brooks said. “It’s not a constant rise. There are some valleys in this process. We’re a tough team so she’s just not in the lineup, but she’ll be there.”

The third freshman on the team, Miranda Wang, has also stepped up for Duke, rebounding from a 77 in the first round of her first college tournament at the Windy City Classic to shoot a combined 3-over-par in the final two rounds—the last a 73 on the windiest day of the week. 

“She played the windy day and she played really well,” Brooks said. “She’s got a powerful game—she hits it hard. That’s a great plus when the wind blows. I saw a lot of great things from her.”

Outside of the usual leaders like Maguire, Duke will need contributions from players like Wang and Carta in the No. 2 and No. 3 slots. Carta struggled mightily at the Windy City Collegiate Classic, finishing a distant tied for 43rd after shooting 11-over-par. 

Carta had played well at the Jim West Challenge, finishing tied for 12th at 3-under-par, but bogied 15 times in three rounds her last time out. However, last year at the par-72, 6,379-yard track in Chapel Hill, she finished the best out of all returners, tied for 22nd at 4-over-par as the Blue Devils slumped without Maguire to finish 10th. 

“We know the course pretty well—it wasn’t anything about the course,” Brooks said. “We just had an off week. Tenth certainly wasn’t where we want to be. I’m sure the team is dead-set on doing better than that this year.”

Hank Tucker contributed reporting.