It wasn't exactly smooth sailing in Puerto Rico for the men's golf team, who finished tied for seventh after struggling on the aptly-named River Course at the Westin Rio Mar Golf Club.
"There are rivers and water hazards everywhere," head coach Rod Myers said. "Someone who's driving the ball well can make a lot of birdies, but if he slips up on the tee, he has a much better shot of making double bogey than anything else."
The No. 9 Blue Devils ended the tournament 33 strokes behind the winners, top-ranked Georgia. No. 4 Florida, No. 3 Oklahoma State, Alabama and No. 17 East Tennessee State rounded out the top five.
The set-up of the course really affected the Duke golfers beginning with the first hole, where there are water hazards on the right side and in front of green, Myers said.
Junior Jake Grodzinsky, who entered the Puerto Rico Classic ranked sixth in the nation, struggled in each of his three rounds and finished tied for 59th with a 9-over-par 225.
"Each round he got off to a poor start and then had to fight an uphill battle for the rest of the day," Myers said.
Grodzinsky was not the only Blue Devil who started off slowly in the tournament. Senior Ryan Blaum shot an 80 on the opening day of play, but showed his resiliency when he fired a 67 and 70 on days two and three, respectively, to finish 1-over par and in a tie for 23rd place.
"I'm not sure why [Blaum got off to a slow start]," Myers said. "But, like the competitor he is, he came back on day two."
The senior could have placed even higher, Myers said. Blaum came out strong in the third round and at one point was shooting 4-under par. But like some of his other teammates, the streaky nature of his rounds was a source of frustration throughout the tournament.
Senior Nathan Smith, who finished at 1-under and tied for 14th, was Duke's top finisher, but even he struggled at several points during the tournament.
"He was consistent overall, but his rounds were up and down," Myers said. "He and I are both frustrated that he didn't have a better score because he had so many birdies and eagles."
Still, Myers said he thinks that Smith, as well as the rest of the team, will only get more consistent as the season progresses.
One of the early surprises of the Classic was the solid play of sophomore Michael Quagliano, who shot even par for the first two days of play. Quagliano was 5-over on the third day and for the tournament, putting him in a tie for 44th-place.
Myers said he is really pleased with the improvement in Quagliano's game. The sophomore was making his return to the lineup after playing much of last spring but only sparingly in the fall.
Overall, the team seemed to be most frustrated by its lack of consistency in each round.
"We felt like we were giving too many strokes away," Myers said. "But this is that kind of golf course. Once you start making small mistakes, it starts to take your confidence and strokes away."
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