Duke leads after first two rounds

Two days into the four-day NCAA Championships, No. 2 Duke sits in the best possible position to win its third consecutive national title. The back-to-back defending champions are currently in first place and sophomore Amanda Blumenherst is tied for third individually at the International Legends Course in Daytona Beach, Fla.

The Blue Devils lead UCLA by seven strokes after posting a two-day total of 11-over-par 587.

Duke sat in fifth place and five strokes off the lead after battling high winds in Tuesday's first round, but the team soared up the leaderboard Wednesday by carding a 1-under 287-the best team score of the tournament and the only under-par round recorded this week.

"I was very impressed by their patience today," head coach Dan Brooks said. "We had some hiccups yesterday.. Today, it seemed like we had less of those from what I can tell. I think that they were mentally a little bit stronger today and probably less affected by the mishaps."

After posting five double-bogeys and two triple-bogeys on Day One, the Blue Devils began the second round with seven birdies in the first five holes to quickly make up lost ground and take the outright lead.

Once again, Blumenherst led the charge for Duke. The country's No. 1 golfer recorded rounds of 70 and 73 to end up in a tie for third at one-under par, two strokes behind Purdue's Christel Boeljon.

"I feel like I'm playing very well," said Blumenherst. "I'm striking it well and also making the putts I need to. A few didn't fall today, but it really wasn't due to a poor putting stroke. It was just that I misread it or hit it too hard."

Named the National Player of the Year as a freshman, Blumenherst had one of her worst performances of the season at last year's NCAA Championships-she finished in a tie for ninth place. After taking four individual titles this year and posting a career-best round of nine-under par in the final round of the NCAA East Regionals, however, Blumenherst is on a mission to add an NCAA-champion badge to her growing list of accomplishments.

Although 2005 NCAA Individual Champion Anna Grzebien carded the worst round of her season on Tuesday, she rebounded with a two-under-par 70 in her second round to help propel Duke into the lead.

"[Tuesday] fired me up," said Grzebien. "This is the tournament where you need to come and play because everyone is prepared to win it."

Last year's runner-up Jennie Lee is currently tied for 10th and freshman Alison Whitaker is tied for 14th.

The four-time National Champion Blue Devils have never held the lead before the third round in any of their previous championship victories, and now sit comfortably ahead of the competition with two days remaining.

"I am feeling very confident about the next two days," Blumenherst said.


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