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Late-round surge gives Duke lead

After two rounds that lasted about 10 hours, an exhausted Duke men’s golf team leads the 14-team field at the annual Duke Golf Classic. Junior Ryan Blaum and freshman Michael Quagliano paced the No. 28 Blue Devils Sunday with strong surges late.

“The guys really turned things around with a number of birdies,” head coach Rod Myers said.

Blaum began the day with a one-over-par first round and was three-over in the second round before carding a 30 on the back nine. The junior birdied the 9th, 10th, 12th and 18th holes and eagled the 14th to end the second round with a 68. Blaum and Quagliano each shot a 141 over the two rounds.

Following the pair, who are tied for third individually, are junior Nathan Smith in eighth and Michael Schachner, who sits in 31st place at seven over par.

In the first round, Smith carded a team-leading 70 on the par-72 course. Like several of the other Duke golfers, however, Smith’s second round began poorly, and Myers said he feared the team would card more than 300 for the round.

It was the strong second rounds by Blaum and Quagliano that propelled Duke to a 288 second round and to the top of the field.

“We were playing much worse when we got started,” Myers said. “It was tough for the team to get hot.”

Going into Monday’s final round, the driving force for Duke will be its spot atop the competition, rather than its home course advantage, Myers said.

“We’ve only won our tournament like twice. Having home course knowledge is never as much help as you want it to be,” Myers said. “In golf, you always want to feel like you’ve got the lead and just play the best you can. These guys are anxious to prove it to everybody. They are ready to play tomorrow and shoot some solid rounds of golf.”

With only 18 holes left at the Washington Duke Golf Club, the Blue Devils are looking to claim their first tournament victory of the fall season. Although there are certain competing teams that Myers felt did play at their usual level, notably fifth-place North Carolina, the deficits may be too large for the golfers to overcome. Currently, Duke holds a nine-shot lead over Michigan State.

“[Monday] will be a lot more relaxed and easier for the team,” Myers said. “We just really got some good solid rounds out of them. If we can get everybody cooking at the same time, we can shoot some good scores.”

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