Duke bounces back in record-breaking form

After ending the first day of the NCAA East Regional in 10th place-in a tournament in which only the eight highest finishers advance-top-seeded Duke could have folded it in. Instead, the two-time reigning national champions mounted a furious, record-breaking comeback.

Buoyed by a final day team score of 16-under 272 and a career-best round of 63 by sophomore Amanda Blumenherst, the No. 2 Blue Devils won the NCAA East Regional May 12 at the University Club in Baton Rouge, La. Duke's 20-under par performance left them two strokes ahead of runner-up UCLA and marked the school's seventh NCAA regional title.

"We just felt like there was plastic wrap over the cup the first two days," head coach Dan Brooks said. "After about 30 holes into the 54-hole tournament, we were still in eighth place. The team had to be patient, not pay attention to the leaderboard and believe in themselves, and that's what they did."

In the process of their comeback, the Blue Devils set or tied several school records. Blumenherst's 9-under-par performance Saturday matched Liz Janangelo for the lowest individual round ever carded by a Blue Devil, and her 10 birdies were the most ever fired in one round in program history. As a team, Duke recorded the lowest team score for an 54-hole tournament by two strokes and the lowest team score over 18 holes.

Although Blumenherst's last-day effort still left her three strokes shy of the tournament's individual title, she still said that she was relieved to set new personal records Saturday. Blumenherst had recorded scores of 65 twice in her collegiate career and five times in her junior golf career, but had yet to go below that mark until this tournament.

"I've had a hard time breaking that barrier-so it's an incredible accomplishment to actually do it," Blumenherst said.

Of course, Blumenherst was not the only Blue Devil that played a crucial role in the team's comeback, as each player on the roster carded under-par rounds Saturday. Junior Jennifer Pandolfi led that group with a 3-under 69. That round was her second consecutive round of 69, and she finished the tournament in a tie for 18th place.

"It gives me a lot of confidence going into next week," Pandolfi said. "I played hard, and my attitude was determined. I'm definitely determined, confident and looking forward to nationals in two weeks."

The Blue Devils head to their 10th consecutive NCAA championship May 22-25 in Daytona Beach, Fla., looking to win their third straight national title. But before then, the team will have the opportunity to travel home and get some much-needed rest and relaxation.

"It's important to be able to get some elbow room and some home cooking," Brooks said. "When you have a team that doesn't need to be watched like this, there are benefits to going home. If they weren't motivated from within, you'd probably want them around practicing, but that's not a problem with this team."


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