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Blaum wins, Blue Devils land 4 short

Despite an 8-under-par, first-place finish by junior Ryan Blaum, Duke could only muster a second-place finish at this weekend’s Landfall Tradition in Wilmington, N.C.

Blaum birdied the 16th and 17th holes to edge out teammate Nathan Smith and UNC-Wilmington’s Will Shambley by one stroke each. Blaum’s win marked his second consecutive individual tournament victory.

“I played very good golf, my short game kept me under par,” Blaum said. “The win was bittersweet. All I did was try and get the team to the top of the leaderboard.”

Duke finished second to Michigan State, which shot 13 under par for the 54-hole tournament. The Spartans snuck by the Blue Devils by four shots and third-place Purdue by seven.

Starting the day two shots behind Michigan State, Duke struggled on the front nine and trailed by 10 with only five holes remaining. Despite a strong finish by both Blaum and Smith, the team could not overcome the deficit.

“We didn’t lose this one, Michigan State outplayed us, they won this tournament,” Smith said of a Michigan State team that had four players post career-best rounds. “I’m proud of this team, we fought back hard.”

Duke began the weekend strong, shooting 10 under Friday to gain the early tournament lead. Smith paced the team at the start with a first-round 66 to move into the individual lead.

“I hit the ball perfectly, didn’t make any mistakes,” Smith said.

After struggling Saturday, the Blue Devils responded with a strong final-round finish to come in second place overall. Michigan State was consistent throughout the weekend and only counted one score over par over the three day event.

“We had three straight rounds under par and that is really though to do,” Spartans’ head coach Mark Hankins said. “We got pressure on us, and we went out and fought hard. It was a really good team win.”

For the Blue Devils, sophomore Jake Grodzinsky saw his first tournament collegiate action this weekend. He finished in a tie for 35th, shooting a seven-over-par 223. Freshman Michael Schachner finished in tie for 23rd with a 218 for the weekend, and freshman Michael Quagliano turned in a 226.

The Blue Devils’ next action comes this weekend when they compete in the Carpet Collegiate Classic in Dalton, Ga. This tournament was postponed from earlier in the season when Hurricane Ivan forced its cancellation. Next weekend’s tournament features one of the best fields in the nation.

“Next weekend, we need to continue to play solid, but I know that we could compete with anyone,” Smith said.

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