The No. 9 Blue Devils’ chances of contending for a championship at the John Hayt Invitational in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. were spoiled by rainy weather and water-logged greens. Despite not playing the last 18 holes of the competition, Duke finished in second place behind host North Florida in a tournament including nine other teams in the top 50 of the latest Golfweek rankings. The Blue Devils fired a five-under 571, 12 shots behind the Ospreys.
“We are obviously always going to try to compete at the highest level we can compete at,” Duke head coach Jamie Green said. “North Florida is talented regardless of who they play. A couple of their best players had a couple good days, and that stretched them out from the rest of the field and made them hard to catch. But we were well above a lot of the teams there.”
Osprey players Kevin Phelan and Sean Dale finished the tournament in first and second place, respectively. Phelan, a senior from Ireland, shot an impressive eight-under par in the first round and ultimately won the Invitational with a 13-under par 131.
Coming out strong from day one, the Blue Devils earned a second-place finish after the first round, six shots behind North Florida after posting a six-under par 282. Duke saw under-par performances from junior Austin Cody and freshman Mads Soegaard, who tied for 10th place with two-under 70s after the first 18 holes of play.
The Blue Devils were paired with the leading Ospreys Monday and finished the second round with a one-over par 289, taking them into the final day of play with at five-under par. Duke and North Florida were the only teams sitting under par entering the final round of play. The closest team to the Blue Devils was Central Florida, which had a score of 585, 14 shots behind Duke and 26 behind the leading Osprey.
“[The Ospreys are] a good team, they are a top-25 team regardless of how they play,” Green said. “If you put them on their home course, they are at a little bit of an advantage there. Teams that have seen their home course more regularly in different conditions and different wind patterns and directions allows them to feel more comfortable…You can be aggressive if you’ve played [the course] enough times to know what you can get away with and what you can’t.”
Duke senior Brinson Paolini fired a three-under 69 on Monday after shooting a 71 on Sunday. The 69 marked the Blue Devils’ fourth round in the 60s this season. The remarkable round earned Paolini a spot in third place, tied with Cody who posted another 70, leaving the pair nine shots behind Phelan.
“Brinson led us…. He has played consistently for three-and-a-half years,” Green said. “He will probably be the first to tell you that he did not play his absolute best, he didn’t hit great golf shots all the time, but he handled things well…. If he didn’t get the wind right, he reacted well to that and got himself collected and ready for the next hole. He is able to compartmentalize each hole and not focus on the previous one and not worry about the one coming up.”
Duke will go across the country to Las Vegas, Nev. next weekend to compete in the Southern Highlands Collegiate Masters. From the southeast to the northwest, the Blue Devils have a heavy road schedule ahead of them.
“We are fortunate to be able to pick some of the best tournaments in the country, and these guys have played well enough to garner those invitations…,” Green said. “We want to compete with the best in the country, and I know that all our teams at Duke do similarly with their schedules….We should be ready for NCAA finals when they get here.”