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Duke staggers at end to finish 2nd

When Duke began play Tuesday it had full round plus the end of the second to catch Northwestern. With four holes remaining in Tuesday's final round it appeared as if Duke might complete the comeback, but the team faltered over the final holes and finished in second.

When the weather warmed up Tuesday, so did the Blue Devils as a final-round 282 catapulted the Blue Devils into a second place finish at the Windon Memorial Classic outside Chicago.

“With these [difficult] conditions at such a tough course, I thought we played well,” head coach Rod Myers said. “We couldn’t win out there, but second place is a pretty good finish in this field.”

With just a few holes remaining on the back nine, the Blue Devils were in prime position to capture the tournament, but a series of late miscues stalled their comeback.

Led by an outstanding performance from junior All-American candidate Ryan Blaum, Duke stormed back from a mediocre second round and finished four strokes behind host Northwestern. Blaum fired a final round, three-under-par 68 and finished in a tie for second place. Duke’s final round total was the low for the round among the 18 teams, but it could have been even lower.

At one point during the final round four Duke players were under par, but junior standout Nathan Smith bogeyed three of his final four holes to finish at even par. Freshman Bryce Mueller, who led the team Monday, double bogeyed the 17th hole on his way to a final-round 73.

Myers attributed the poor finish to a combination of difficult conditions and tough breaks, but he was happy with the way the team played overall.

“This was the first time we had the whole group together,” he said. “I’m sure the upperclassmen wish they played better. We were kind of feeling our way out there. It was a tough course to play on.”

Frost in the morning delayed the completion of the second round, which was suspended due to darkness Monday. When play finally resumed, the Blue Devils staggered to a second-round total of 296, leaving the team well off the pace heading into the third.

Blaum pledged a comeback in his second and third rounds, after struggling with the tough course conditions Monday. He backed it up Tuesday by shooting par in the second and then three under to finish at one over par for the entire tournament. Despite the strong charge, he finished two strokes behind Purdue’s Peter Richardson.

“Ryan was really solid out there today,” Myers said. “He really played a heck of a round.”

This was the first time this season that Myers has been able to play what he considers his best five golfers. This lineup included three standout freshmen with recruits Michael Quagliano and Michael Schachner and Mueller a walk-on.

Quagliano played impressively throughout the 54-hole tournament with a total score of 217. A third-round 70 lifted the freshman to ninth. After a good first round, Schachner struggled in the final two with scores of 79 and 80, respectively.

“We have a good solid squad, and we need to keep working and building,” Myers said. “Our chances are going to be good any time we play with these guys.”

The Blue Devils return to action in the Duke Golf Classic Oct., 17. The team will count on Blaum to continue his outstanding play, the freshmen to keep improving and Smith to rebound from a difficult tournament.

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