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Blaum leads Duke to 1st spring title

All the men’s golf team could do was post a score and wait, hoping that it would be good enough to win the title at the Ez-Go Invitational Sunday in Statesboro, Ga.

Duke’s four-over-par 868 was low enough to edge out 12th-ranked Auburn, and nine other top-25 teams, by one stroke. The victory was the first of the spring for the 17th-ranked Blue Devils.

Duke entered Sunday’s final round four strokes behind then-first-place Tennessee and three behind the eventual runners-up. The Tigers fired a two-over-par round Sunday, just missing an amazing comeback. As its final players reached the 18th tee, Auburn was one stroke back but could not record a birdie on the par 5 to catch the Blue Devils.

Blaum, who along with Nathan Smith finished in a tie for sixth place at one over, led the Blue Devils in the final round with a four-under-par 68. Blaum was five over par entering the final round but carded four birdies and 14 pars Sunday. After starting the second round with a bogey, Blaum notched 17 consecutive pars, giving him an impressive 35-hole streak without a bogey.

“Ryan really managed himself around the course and made some key putts,” head coach Rod Myers said. “For him to go a round without any bogeys, we’re watching the Ryan Blaum of old.”

Freshman Michael Schachner started his final round by birdieing three of his first seven holes and played even par the rest of the way, ending with a 69. He finished at five-over par for the tournament in a tie for 24th place.

“For Blaum and Schachner to shoot in the 60s—that’s a heck of a score,” Myers said.

Those low scores hid three higher scores, which were conveniently spaced out over the three rounds. The Blue Devils notched four scores of 76 or below each round, giving them just enough for the win.

Freshman Michael Quagliano played inconsistently, carding a 78 in the first round and an 80 on the final day. His second-round 71 was integral to the victory, however, as Schachner stumbled to an 80.

“Quagliano played really well in the afternoon and Schachner struggled [Saturday],” Myers said Sunday. “Today was the reverse. If you don’t match rounds up well, it can really cost you. We were fortunate to get four solid scores at the right times.”

Smith entered the final round at even par in a tie for eighth place. The junior was one under through 12 holes Sunday before double-bogeying the par-3 13th hole.

“Nate just missed getting up-and-down for birdie on 12 and then struggled on 13,” Myers said. “Those two holes cost him a chance at the individual title.”

Smith finished two strokes back of Mark Anderson of South Carolina and Georgia Southern’s Jon David Kennedy. Anderson won the individual title in a two-hole playoff.

Sophomore Jake Grodzinsky played his best overall tournament of the spring season, finishing at six over and in a tie for 24th place. Each of his rounds was inconsistent, though, as he recorded at least four bogeys and two birdies each time out.

Duke’s win was its first tournament victory since the Duke Classic in October 2004. The Blue Devils return to action April 2 to 3 in Augusta, Ga.

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