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Schachner makes history at NCAAs

Before the third round of the NCAA tournament, interim head coach Brad Sparling left a note in Michael Schachner's bag.

"Mike-I believe in you. You're a great player. Go out and have fun today."

Little did Sparling how great Schachner would be, or how much fun he would have Friday at the Golden Horseshoe Golf Club Gold Course in Williamsburg, Va.

Schachner birdied 11 of the first 14 holes, and finished the day at 10-under, propelling him from 120th to 14th on the leaderboard. In the process, he set the NCAA championship record-low with a round of 60.

Only four other players in NCAA history have carded 60s.

"It was an unbelievable round," Sparling said. "It was really exciting not only to watch it, but also to be a part of it."

And as Sparling said, Schachner's performance was exactly what the Blue Devils needed.

After Day One, Duke was in 29th place of 30 teams. By the end of Day Three-buoyed by Schachner's score-the Blue Devils had jumped to 10th place, making the cut and advancing to the final round, where they would finish 13th.

But Schachner's historic 18 holes meant more to the team than a number on a scorecard or place on the leaderboard could express.

In March, the Blue Devils lost their head coach of 34 years, Rod Myers, to leukemia, and they wanted to do something special this postseason to honor his memory.

Both Schachner and Sparling said they felt the late coach's presence with them on the links Friday.

"Around hole seven or eight, after I had made a couple of birdies in a row, I starting thinking how much he would love to be out here watching today," Schachner said of his former coach. "I know he was looking down on us and probably helping me will some of those putts in. We miss him. He was such a huge person to Duke golf and a father away from home for most of us.

"To play well like this on this stage with him looking down on us is special and I will remember it forever."

Around the 12th hole, Sparling said he approached Myers' widow, Nancy, and whispered in her ear that the coach was "right on Michael's shoulder."

Schachner, who earned Division I honorable mention All-American honors Wednesday, went 5-over Saturday to finish the tournament with a 3-over 283, good for a tie for 31st place.

Freshman Adam Long turned in the Blue Devils' best score on the final day, firing a 1-over 71 after hitting 15 greens in the round. Long, who finished at 11-over for the week, placed 60th.

Both Jake Grodzinsky and Clark Klaasen turned in 9-over 289s to put themselves in a tie for 53rd. Grodzinsky, playing in his final tournament as a Blue Devil, bogeyed his first four holes Saturday before playing the rest of the course at even-par en route to a 4-over 74. Michael Quagliano rounded out the Duke roster, going 17-over for the week and placing in 77th.

With a team score of 1140, the Blue Devils posted their lowest-ever four-round score in the NCAA championship, besting their previous mark by 22 strokes.

Although Sparling admits the team would have liked to have finished even higher than 13th, he is extremely pleased with how his team handled itself even in the most trying of times.

"It has been a very difficult spring, but the guys have worked really hard, both academically and on the course," Sparling said. "I could not be more proud of them."

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