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Blue Devils go west to win spring's 1st title

The men's golf survived, even with a field gaining on its lead, to win the Western Intercollegiate for its first tournament victory of the spring season.

"We're really excited about the win," head coach Rod Myers said. "I'd like to think that it could be a turning point in our season."

The victory could not have come at a more opportune time, as the team is slated to play only one more tournament before the ACC Championships begin Apr. 21.

The Blue Devils, who led the 16-team field by five strokes after the first day of play, finished at 17-over par, edging out second-place Stanford by two strokes.

Monday's leader, Ryan Blaum, opened up the second round by shooting 5-over-par on the front nine. But the senior then went 2-under par on the backside to finish with a 3-over 73 for the day and in fourth place overall for the tournament.

"I had a lot of birdies, which is good for a course like this, with the greens the way they were," said Blaum, who fired a tournament-high eight birdies over 36 holes.

In both rounds, the unfavorable conditions of the fairways and the greens forced the players to adjust.

"When the weather kind of took a turn for the worse yesterday, it was pretty raunchy," Blaum said. "On a hole that I would usually shoot a seven iron, I was shooting a two iron into and coming up short."

Yet the inclement weather was not the only obstacle Duke had to overcome. The team competed without senior Nathan Smith and sophomore Michael Schachner. Smith, who usually starts for Duke, and Schachner, who does intermitently,, were suspended indefinitely for violating team rules, Myers said.

In their absence, lineup-regulars Blaum and Jake Grodzinsky, who finished 3-over-par for the tournament and tied for eighth place, played solidly. The difference-maker for Duke in the second round, however, was the play of reserve sophomore Bryce Mueller.

Mueller fired the lowest round of the day for the Blue Devils with a 71 and finished in a career-best 13th place, one stroke shy of his first top-10 finish.

"Bryce shooting a 71 was huge for us," Myers said. "We needed someone to step up today and he filled that role for us."

Freshman Clark Klaasen shot a 10-over 150 and closed out the final round tied for 32nd place. Sophomore Michael Quagliano finished in 42nd at 11-over par.

Overall, the team was the tournament's best performer in Par-4 scoring and finished 11-under on the course's three par-5 holes.

Duke still needs to make several adjustments before its next competition, the Courtyard Intercollegiate, on Apr. 7 in Raleigh, Myers said.

"Going over to MacGregor Downs [Country Club] to play, we just really need to sharpen our wedge play," the coach said. "It's a course you can really play well on if you're shooting well from about 125 yards in."

With the tournament in Raleigh being the last before play begins for Duke in the ACC Championships, Blaum reiterated his coach's sentiments on the team's need to fine-tune its play.

"You want to continue to get sharper and sharper and play well for the big tournaments, like the ACC Championships, because that's when playing your game matters most," Blaum said.


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