This was not exactly the way the Blue Devils wanted to head into a long winter break.
In their last team performance of the fall semester, Duke finished a disappointing 14th at this weekend’s U.S. Collegiate Championship. The tournament was held at the Lakeside Course at the Golf Club of Georgia in Alpharetta, Ga.
As has been the case for most of the season, a relative lack of experience played a major role in the Blue Devil’s performance. The lineup featured three first-year starters, with only senior Yaroslav Merkulov having any prior experience playing the course.
“We had a lot of youth out there and this is the kind of golf course where, each time you see a hole, you learn a little something,” head coach Jamie Green said. “Unfortunately, I think our inexperience showed up a few too many times.”
Duke’s two freshman starters, Alexander Matlari and Max Greyserman, finished at seven- and eight-over-par, respectively. Merkulov’s experience helped him lead the team and finish in a tie for 36th place at four-over-par for the tournament.
The Blue Devils just couldn’t seem to get going this weekend. A three-over-par score of 291 in the first round put them in 10th place after Friday, and they were never able to improve on that. Duke posted a nine-over-par round of 297 on Saturday and a 10-over-par score of 298 on Sunday, for a three round total of 886 at 22-over-par.
Duke was up against very stiff competition this weekend, as the 15-team field featured 10 teams that were ranked in Golfweek’s latest rankings. No. 9 Oklahoma State captured the victory with a combined team score of 15-under-par, one shot ahead of No. 2 Georgia Tech.
Green looked as the high level of play as a positive aspect of the tournament in that it highlights areas of each player’s game that needs improvement.
“What a tournament like this—with this kind of course and this kind of field--does is that, if you don’t play well, it exposes things,” Green said. “Each guy has his personal set of things to work on and get better, and each of them has some things that they did well.”
Sophomore Motin Yeung, who has been one of the team’s top performers this year, fired an opening round score of 69, the only round in the 60s carded by any Duke player this weekend. He was tied for 13th heading into the final round before a seven-over-par 79 on Sunday dropped him down the leader board into a tie for 39th place.
Green noted that a lack of consistency, not a lack of talent, was the main issue that his team needs to fix.
“They have talent. That said, there are things about each player that can get sharper and get better. There are, at the moment, a few things that are startling that we will have the time to identify (in the offseason).”
Despite the lack of low scores this weekend, Green feels that it was a good building block for his team, and remains confident heading into the offseason.
“The bonus of a tournament like this is that it really exposes things. We know which things we need to work on immediately, and which things are more internal. So that’s good, and we’ve got our game plan for a few guys.”