Defending champs place 2nd at NCAA Preview

For two of three days, No. 1 Duke played better than any other team at the LPGA International Legends course.

But a slow start on day one of the three-day tournament left too much ground to make up as the Blue Devils finished second at the Daytona Beach Women's Fall NCAA Preview Sunday.

"I was very happy with our performance," head coach Dan Brooks said. "I think we learned a lot on this golf course. This is a preview tournament getting us ready for nationals, and there's a lot to learn-it's a good test."

Duke finished the tournament-which is held at the same course where the NCAA Championships will take place next spring and features 18 of the country's best teams-14 strokes over par with a three-day total of 878.

The Blue Devils were a full 17 strokes off the lead and sat in 11th place after the first round of the tournament. Second-ranked Georgia led the tournament from wire to wire, though the Blue Devils cut the Bulldogs' deficit to nine strokes by the end of competition.

"There were some conditions we're not really used to," Brooks said. "There was a different type of bermuda rough and bermuda greens that we're not used to, and it took us a day to get used to it."

After shooting 18-over-par 306 Friday, the Blue Devils recovered to shoot even-par 288 Saturday and 4-under 284 Sunday-the best two-day total of any team by nine strokes.

The Blue Devils upperclassmen-senior Anna Grzebien and junior Jennifer Pandolfi-led the charge in the final rounds. Grzebien shot 3-under-par 69 Saturday, and Pandolfi posted Duke's best round of the tournament Sunday with a 4-under-par 68.

"She had a great tournament," Brooks said of Pandolfi. "The 68 really gave us a fighting chance. We needed somebody go low, and we had both [Pandolfi] and Anna going low."

The low scores came after Grzebien shot 77 and Pandolfi scored 79 on the first day of competition-a day in which no Blue Devil broke par.

"We're satisfied with our effort, and we're satisfied with our performance the last two days," Brooks said. "We were able to move from 11th to second-that's impressive for any team to do that."

Grzebien was Duke's highest individual finisher in a tie for seventh place with a three-day total of 1-over-par 217. Pandolfi carded a score of 220, shooting up the leaderboard by 27 places on the final day to tie for 14th.

Duke's lauded sophomores, Amanda Blumenherst and Jennie Lee, finished tied for 10th and 24th, respectively. Neither player carded a round below par.

Freshman Alison Whitaker, playing in just her second career tournament, finished tied for 40th place after shooting a final-round 73.

Last year, Duke opened its season by winning three straight tournaments, a feat that will not be matched this year as the Blue Devils play for their third consecutive national championship.

"Obviously we always go into a tournament wanting to win," Grzebien said. "But it's better now than later, so we have something to motivate us and keep us practicing hard."


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