Seeking a sixth national championship, the Blue Devils head down to Georgia.
The No. 3 Blue Devils will tee it up Tuesday for the opening round of the 72-hole NCAA Championship at the par-72 University of Georgia Golf Course in Athens, Ga. Duke’s win at the NCAA Central Regional earlier this month earned them the No. 1 seed for the Championship this week.
The Blue Devils also won the ACC Championship last month in Greensboro, N.C., and enter this week having won their last two tournaments after concluding the regular season without a victory. Head coach Dan Brooks noted that in the months leading up to the ACC Championships, his team put up a number of solid finishes of strong performances—just not a win.
“We haven’t been too far off,” Brooks said. “For us to win the last two, it seemed like it was heading that way—we were close enough. I wasn’t terribly surprised.”
After the ACC Championship, Duke captured its eighth regional title in program history at the par-72 Jimmie Austin OU Golf Club in Norman, Okla. Junior Alejandra Congrejo and seniors Lindy Duncan and Courtney Ellenbogen all recorded top-10 finishes in the win. Junior Laetitia Beck and freshman Celine Boutier rounded out the lineup at the Regional, and the same five golfers will represent Duke this week.
Since last week's victory, Brooks—who has been at the helm for all of Duke’s five national titles—has allowed the team to practice on their own, believing that by this point in the season each golfer will know what she needs to do to prepare.
“I feel really good about the week in between [the Regional and the Championship],” Coach Brooks said. “I believe in letting them have a lot of independence when it gets to the end of the season.”
This week will be the second time Duke has played the University of Georgia Golf Course this season—Duncan, Boutier and Beck were all in the lineup when the Blue Devils played there in October for the NCAA Fall Preview. Duncan also captured the individual title of the Liz Murphey Collegiate Classic there in 2010.
Heading into its most important tournament of the season, Brooks said his team seemed ready to compete against the nation's 21 best teams.
“Laetitia, Alejandra, Courtney, Lindy—they are all pretty seasoned and they know what it’s like,” Brooks said. “They all seem pretty calm to me.”
This week will mark the end of Ellenbogen and Duncan’s collegiate careers, the latter of which was one of the most accomplished in program history. In her four-year career, Duncan accumulated a 72.14 scoring average, six victories, 20 top-five finishes and had the lowest total for the Blue Devils in 62 percent of the matches she competed in.
“The cool thing about Lindy is that every time she tees it up, she is planning on winning,” Brooks said. “She is the most calm in this situation of all of the players, because she has put this sort of pressure on herself in every event she has ever played in.”
The Championship will be the first and only four-day tournament of the year for the Blue Devils, but Brooks is a fan of the extra round.
“I think it’s good. The more rounds the better when you’re trying to determine a champion. You’d really know who your champion was if you played 50 rounds.”
The Blue Devils’ title pursuit begins at 12:03 p.m. Tuesday.