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Freshmen fuel Duke charge

Ryan Blaum and Nathan Smith are the All-American candidates that are supposed to be leading the Blue Devils, but during Monday's opening round, it was a trio of freshman who catapulted Duke in second place. Officials suspended play in the second round because of darkness and the tournament will conclude Tuesday.

A trio of freshmen carried the Blue Devils Monday as the Windy City lived up to its reputation at the Windon Memorial Classic just outside Chicago.

Duke persevered through tough conditions and stood in second place after 18 holes. The teams were slated to play 36 Monday, but the second round was suspended due to darkness after Duke had completed 15 holes. Team scores for the second round had not been tabulated.

Three freshmen led the way while All-American candidates Nathan Smith and Ryan Blaum struggled with the wind and cold at Conway Farms Golf Club. The Blue Devils shot seven-over 291 in the first and were four shots behind LSU, which recorded a opening-round total of 287.

“The freshmen really carried us with a great team effort,” head coach Rod Myers said. “The upperclassmen will lead us tomorrow.”

Bryce Mueller, playing in his first collegiate event, carded an even-par 71 in his first collegiate tournament, placing him two shots off the lead after round one. The freshman was four over par through his first five holes in the first round but rallied on the back nine to get return to even before the round concluded. His run included an impressive eagle on the par-5 14th hole when he knocked the ball on the green in two shots and one-putted.

“All of us are proud of the way he stepped up in his first college tournament,” Blaum said.

Mueller, however, fell back in the second round and was five over when play stopped.

Besides Mueller, freshmen Michael Schachner and Michael Quagliano also played well, shooting one and three over par, respectively.

“All three of the freshmen are confident in their abilities to play on this level,” Blaum said. “They are adapting without any problem whatsoever.”

Blaum shot a 75 while Smith could only manage a team-high 78 in the first.

But Blaum bounced back after his disappointing morning round and is one under par through 15 holes in the second. Smith and Quagliano are two-over, and Schachner is seven-over.

Tough conditions affected the pace of play, and when the players went out for the morning round the temperature was barely over 40 degrees and the winds were whipping. As darkness crept in, similar conditions returned to the links.

Play will resume today morning at 9 a.m. with a shotgun start to finish the second before continuing on to the third and final round.

Duke is expecting better play from Blaum and Smith today, but the freshmen will also have to maintain their efforts if the team expects to eclipse its competition.

“We’re in a great spot going into tomorrow because [Smith] and I struggled while the freshmen kept us in the hunt,” Blaum said. “Everybody has a bad day. We’ll come back tomorrow.”

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