Blue Devils take 12th-straight ACC title with ease

With a driving rain pelting the greens of Charlotte's Carmel Country Club and 35 mile-per-hour wind gusts toying with tee shots, most golfers in the ACC tournament caved under the elements Sunday.

Sophomore Amanda Blumenherst, however, thrived in the brutal conditions, storming back from a one-stroke deficit on the back nine to capture the tournament's individual title with a 4-under 212.

Blumenherst's performance lifted No. 2 Duke to a 35-stroke victory-its 12th consecutive conference crown.

Blumenherst, the reigning National Player of the Year and No. 1 golfer in the country, did not need an array of birdies to best her main competition, Florida State's Caroline Westrup. She simply played steady golf, parring holes 13 through 17. In a round halted for an hour because of a nearby thunderstorm, though, maintaining par was more admirable than usual- no one else scored at par or better.

"It was definitely a challenge," Blumenherst said. "You had to stay focused all day just because of the elements. It was windy. It was wet. The combination of those two really made the course play a lot harder. You had to play conservatively-hit solid shots, but go for the middle of the green."

The weather seemed to help Blumenherst's comeback effort. The wind affected other golfers, but it failed to unhinge Blumenherst, thanks to her accuracy and long-hitting ability.

"The weather got really bad, and that played right into her hands because she's very physically strong," head coach Dan Brooks said. "All she needed to do was stay patient and keep playing her game. She didn't come in with five birdies to get it back. It was all sort of just staying strong in really bad conditions."

The third and final day of the tournament was decidedly different than the first two. After shooting under par Friday and expanding their lead by 20 shots Saturday, the Blue Devils failed to finish in the red Sunday. Their 22-over-par 302, however, was still the best in the field by nine strokes.

"The last day, particularly the very last part of the last day, didn't really give us a chance to go under par," Brooks said. "It was really pretty nasty."

Duke won by 35 strokes-its largest margin of victory this year-because of the squad's consistency. All five golfers placed in the top 13.

The Blue Devils' collaborative effort was highlighted by Jennie Lee's 1-over 217 and Anna Grzebien's 6-over 222. Lee's total was good for third place, and Grzebien finished sixth.

Duke's combined effort impressed Brooks more than its wire-to-wire win, partly because it was the Blue Devils' first triumph since March 18, and partly because of the victory's implications for the upcoming NCAA tournament.

"It's a win-but obviously with a win by that big a margin, we can't hope for that," Brooks said. "The win is less important than the quality of play, going under par. We're more interested in going under par than we are in what other teams are doing."

With the championship, the Blue Devils can look ahead to defending their NCAA tournament title for the second year in a row. They will take a break from competitive play until May 10, when the regional championships start.

If Duke can advance past the regionals, the team will travel to Daytona Beach, Fla. for the NCAA championships, which begin May 22.


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