Women's golf team wins title in final fall tourney

The two-time defending national champion Blue Devils captured their second tournament victory of the season over the weekend at the Hooters Match Play Championship in Orlando, Fla.

Second-seeded Duke topped South Carolina, Florida State and Michigan State before advancing to the finals Sunday, which the Blue Devils won in a tightly contested 3-2 matchup over fourth-seeded Vanderbilt.

"The thing I liked the most about this tournament is everybody contributed on the golf course substantially and also off the course, creating quite a winning atmosphere," head coach Dan Brooks said. "If there was ever a tournament I felt we were going to win because of our attitude, this was it."

The Blue Devils sealed the win with victories from sophomores Amanda Blumenherst and Jennie Lee and a commanding 7-and-6 win from freshman Alison Whitaker, who finished the tournament a perfect 4-0 in her pairings.

"[Whitaker] has a strong will and the ability to stay positive," Brooks said. "She went into this tournament talking about how much she loved match play, and liking something a lot and doing well go hand in hand."

The freshman's stellar performance almost went for naught, however, as Duke was tied 2-2 in the semifinals Saturday against Michigan State with senior captain Anna Grzebien heading to a playoff to decide which team would advance to the finals.

Grzebien, the 2005 NCAA individual title winner, and the Spartans' Laura Kueny traded leads throughout the afternoon and were all square when they finished their 18th-hole, forcing a sudden-death playoff.

The two players each carded pars on the first playoff hole, but on the second, a 156-yard par three, the Blue Devil senior landed her tee shot within feet of the cup and tapped in for birdie to send Duke to the tournament finals.

"She's a clutch player, she can do it when it counts," Brooks said. "It was an amazing shot, probably the best one at the tournament."

The victory is the first for the Blue Devils since they opened their season with a win at the Mason Rudolph Championship. It comes after a seventh-place finish at the Stanford Pepsi Women's Intercollegiate, in which Duke was without Blumenherst and Lee, who were competing in the 2006 Women's World Amateur Team Championship in South Africa.

Duke has now concluded the fall part of its schedule and will be out of action until the 2006-2007 season resumes at the Wildcat Invitational in Tucson, Ariz. Feb. 26.

"It's always good to have a win to end the season," Brooks said. "To be able to pull everybody back together this weekend and get a win heading into the winter is really great."


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