Duke women's golf earns third-place finish at Mason Rudolph Championship
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The Blue Devils battled many of the nation's top teams on a golf course they had never seen, yet recorded their second top-five finish in as many starts this season.
No. 2 Duke struggled in its first round of the 54-hole Mason Rudolph Championship in Franklin, Tenn., shooting eight-over-par 296 and finishing day one tied for eighth. The Blue Devils responded by posting rounds of one-over-par 289 and three-over-par 291 on the Vanderbilt Legends Club North Golf Course to finish the tournament at 12-over-par in a tie for third place, five strokes behind second-place Arizona State and 26 strokes behind tournament champion UCLA. The Bruins were the only team to better Duke in rounds two and three.
"I was pretty happy with the team the last two days," Blue Devil head coach Dan Brooks said. "We got ourselves in too deep a hole the first day, but we were really solid the last two days.... UCLA just played phenomenal golf. There had been some rain, so the course was softened up, and they just made it play really long. Hats off to UCLA for playing some great golf."
Freshman Yu Liu led Duke with rounds of 73, 73 and 71 to finish at one-over-par in a tie for ninth, eight strokes behind the tournament's individual champion Erynne Lee of UCLA. Her top-10 finish was even more impressive considering it was her first start as a Blue Devil, as she missed the first tournament of the season because she was competing in China's National Games.
"She hits it a long way and that helped," Brooks said. "Also, she can take it in high on [approach to] the greens. This gave her a little bit of an advantage. She just played really solid golf."
Liu was supported by seniors Alejandra Cangrejo and Laetitia Beck, along with sophomore Celine Boutier and fellow freshman Sandy Choi. Cangrejo opened with rounds of 71 and 72 and was tied for eighth after 36 holes before a final round 76 knocked her into a tie for 18th at three-over-par.
Beck and Boutier struggled in the first round, shooting rounds of 76 and 81, respectively, before bouncing back in rounds two and three. Beck carded a 71 and a 73 for her final 36 holes to finish the tournament at four-over-par and tied for 22nd.
Boutier shot rounds of 73 and 72 in her final two rounds to finish at 10-over-par, in a tie for 41st. Because the team score is calculated using the four best scores on the five-person-team, Boutier's resilience on days two and three was crucial to the team's success.
"She's just a fighter," Brooks said. "She's really a tough competitor. I wouldn't say she hit the ball really well this tournament, but she just keeps fighting. The one thing you can count on is that she's going to give it her all at all times. That's what she does for us."
After opening the season with back-to-back tournaments on difficult golf courses against top competition, Duke now has some time off before starting competition in the Tar Heel Invitational on Oct. 11. Despite their early success, the Blue Devils must continue to work hard before facing another slate of top competition in Chapel Hill.
"We've got a lot to work on," Brooks said. "We had a lot of prep going into the first two tournaments.... We're going to ease back a little bit, but then we'll crank it up as we get into early October."