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Blue Devils in 12th after opening round

OWINGS MILL, Md. — On his final hole of the day, junior Ryan Blaum stood at the bottom of a hill 20 yards from the pin. He needed an up-and-down to salvage a par and finish even for the day. His ensuing chip skidded to a stop four feet from the hole, and he sank his putt, generating cheers from onlooking teammates and coaches.

“[The up-and-down] was very important,” Blaum said. “It gives you momentum going into the next day. It gives you a positive feeling about your round.”

Blaum’s save symbolized Duke’s opening round at the 2005 NCAA Championship—scrambling to save par and happy to do so. On a day when birdies were hard to come by, no Blue Devil broke par. The team’s 8-over-par 288 placed it in a tie for 12th with 54 holes of golf remaining. Blaum and freshman Michael Schachner each delivered even-par 70s, which leaves them in a 22nd-place tie in the individual standings.

“I think our guys should feel pretty good,” head coach Rod Myers said. “I think it is the kind of round that keeps you in the ballgame.”

Following a double bogey on the ninth hole that put him at one over, Blaum recovered well. On his back nine, he notched eight pars, as well as a birdie on one of the course’s most difficult holes.

“I think we’re in a good spot,” Blaum said “This is kinda what you need to do the first day.”

Schachner’s round was more tumultuous, but he finished with a flourish as well. After narrowly missing a birdie on his 17th hole, Schachner nailed his approach to within 15 feet and holed his birdie putt on the 18th green to get back to even par.

“Schachner gave us another great round of golf,” Myers said. “70 is a really good score out there, I think.”

With two players left on the course, Duke seemed likely to finish several strokes better than it did. Nathan Smith drove his tee shot into the heart of the fairway on his final hole with the team sitting at six over. But the junior left his approach shot 30 yards short of the green in the deep rough. Two poor chips and a missed eight-foot putt later, Duke had dropped to eight over.

Smith’s day started poorly, bogeying his first two holes, and it was a struggle for him to get back to par. He birdied two of four holes in one stretch on the back nine but gave three strokes away on his final three holes and finished with a 4-over 74.

“Nate was a little concerned about his round,” Myers said. “He gave three strokes away at the end which is not like him. But he still fought awfully hard out there.”

Duke’s final two players, sophomore Jake Grodzinsky and freshman Michael Quagliano, carded a 74 and a 76, respectively. Quagliano’s day started auspiciously with a birdie on the first hole, but it was his only birdie of the round. Grodzinsky struck the ball well but putted poorly, Myers said.

Duke tees off its second round at the Caves Valley Golf Course in Owings Mills, Md. Thursday afternoon.

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