Even though the Blue Devils fell short of their desired result over the weekend, their play in the final round of the Rod Myers Invitational bodes well for the future.
No. 11 Duke posted a team score of 3-under-par Monday—the lowest mark of the day—and moved three positions up the scoreboard to finish fifth in the tournament, held at the Duke University Golf Club.
The Blue Devils began the final round on No. 10 and gained most of the ground when they made the turn to their second nine.
“The back nine was playing pretty tough, which is where we started,” head coach Jamie Green said. “When we made the turn over there some guys it seemed like turned on another gear, and it was really fun to see. I know they had some more fun coming in, watched some putts drop, hit some shots close, and just built up some confidence.”
Freshman Yaroslav Merkulov dominated the final nine with consecutive birdies on No.’s 5, 6 and 7 and pars on the other six holes—good for 2-under on the day. Sophomore Julian Suri, competing as an individual, also racked up eight pars and a birdie over the same stretch and came in 12th—the highest finish of any Blue Devil.
“Any time you finish a round like that, that’s ideal,” senior Wes Roach said. “For us moving forward, that’s huge. We can look back on that and hopefully carry that momentum into the start of our next event.”
Roach was an instrumental part of the turnaround as well. The senior’s final-round 69 was the team’s lowest individual score Monday and his first under-par round of the year. He finished the tournament in a tie for 13th.
But the late charge was not enough to catch No. 14 Iowa, the tournament winner. The Hawkeyes led from start to finish, carding a 13-under-par after the first two rounds Sunday and jumping out to a six-shot lead.
The Blue Devils struggled on their home course during the first day of play, as the five players combined for only three under-par rounds Sunday. Merkulov was responsible for two of those rounds, shooting a pair of 69’s.
Unfortunately for Merkulov, he inadvertantly signed for a 68 instead of a 69 after the first round of play, which disqualified his opening score. If the 69 had counted, Duke would have vaulted from five-over to one-under heading into Monday. Merkulov also would have won the individual championship by three strokes.
“It was just a quick turnaround from the front 18 to the back 18,” Green said. “I think he just felt rushed. We feel terrible for him because he played so great this week.”
Duke University Golf Club typically hosts an annual collegiate event, but this was the first year the tournament featured the name of former head coach Rod Myers, who led the program for 34 years until his passing in 2007. Myers helped the Blue Devils to 30 tournament victories and the 2005 ACC Championship.
“It was an enormous privilege to be able to have Rod’s name on a tournament here at Duke University,” Green said. “To be able to have an event [in Myers’s name]... almost brings instant prestige, and that was something that we had to live up to. We can’t just name something after Rod Myers unless it’s really done first class... and I feel like that happened.”