At the Nike Collegiate Invitational two weeks ago, the Blue Devils were hanging amongst the top teams through two rounds in third place—just behind No. 5 Oklahoma and No. 13 Stanford, and ahead of No. 6 Wake Forest and No. 19 Clemson. But a disastrous 16-over-par final round dropped the Blue Devils all the way to 11th.

Hoping to put the tournament behind it, Duke will look to bounce back strong at the Golf Club of Georgia Collegiate at The Golf Club of Georgia in Alpharetta, Ga.

The three-day tournament, which starts Friday, will feature the top schools in college golf. On top of the familiar faces from the last tournament in Oregon, this field boasts three of the top-five teams in country—No. 1 Oklahoma State, No. 2 Texas A&M and No. 4 Georgia Tech—and three other top 20 teams.

Through their first two tournaments, the Blue Devils have proved that they deserve to be in the conversation among the best teams in the country—finishing second at the Rod Myers Invitational, which featured three top-10 teams, and staying in contention before the third round of the Nike Collegiate Invitational. Their response to setback this weekend may very well set the tone for the rest of the year.

“The thing to keep in mind, however, is that it is really what each individual player's motivation is all about. That is something that we talked about after the last round of the last event—making sure that each player knew where his chip on the shoulder was,” head coach Jamie Green said. “What is the thing that drives him when things get tough and he needs to be resilient and that drives him to be all-out aggressive and feel like Superman? Whatever that chip is for each guy, I want the guys to be aware of it and welcome it.”

The Blue Devils will compete on the Arthur Hills-designed Lakeside course, which measures 7,017 yards and plays as a par-72. The course is notable for its back nine that features water hazards on six holes and stunning views of Lake Windward. Duke will hope to navigate the closing holes in the red, giving it an opportunity to contend.

“It looks like there is going to be hardly any wind, at least the first day, and we will see how it is the next couple of days. But a lot of times, when there is wind on this golf course, it tends to pick up around the back nine, around the lake," Green said. “You can fly into a little bit of havoc in terms of decision making. But I don't know that I see that as being a major factor this year."

The Blue Devils will look to Chandler Eaton to lead the team through the tournament. The freshman finished tied for fourth last season at 6-under-par and holds an advantage on the field, playing on his home course. Among the starting lineup, Eaton leads the team in scoring average at 70.3 and finished third at the Rod Myers Invitational.

“We just finished up a team meeting and I gave him the floor. I just said beforehand during the practice round, I would love for you to speak up tonight and really just go through every hole. And he went hole-by-hole and just told the guys, 'Here is what I do every time that I find allows me to play well out here,'” Green said. “That hopefully will give our guys just a little bit more confidence when they are stepping up on a course that they maybe do not know as well.” 

Jake Shuman and Alex Smalley will hold the next two spots for Duke. Both finished in the top 10 at the Rod Myers Invitational and will look to improve on their performance at the Nike Collegiate Invitational, which saw both players finish outside the top 35. 

Adam Wood, who had the lone bright performance at the Nike Collegiate Invitational with an impressive 6-under-par that landed him in the top-10, will look to build on that momentum and improve on his 71.2 stroke average.

A new face to the starting lineup this week is sophomore Steven DiLisio. Although he has struggled in the early going, with a 73.8 scoring average and 7-over-par finish at the Hummingbird Intercollegiate, the coaching staff believes his confidence and strong performance in qualifying will make him an important asset in the tournament.

“Everybody on the team and the coaches have been noticing that he is really feeling much more comfortable with what he is doing in his golf swing, and his confidence level has just gotten higher and higher with each passing week,” Green said. “He shot 64 in qualifying to determine the team to go to this event. So any time you put up a number like that on the board, he gets confidence and the guys have confidence in him.”

Last year at this event, the Blue Devils were alone in seventh place in a crowded leaderboard, with the top nine teams all within seven strokes of one another.