No. 14 Duke registered its first tournament win since October this weekend, finishing a collective 13-under and beating the field by nine strokes at the River Landing Intercollegiate in Wallace, N.C.
Senior Michael Schachner paced the Blue Devils on the par-72 Landing Course by going 3-under on Sunday and 7-under for the tournament to take the individual title-but not without a little drama. After forcing a playoff by birdying 17 and parring 18, Schachner sank a 40-foot birdie putt on the first extra hole to wrestle the win away from Wake Forest's Webb Simpson.
"Michael's win was so impressive," head coach O.D. Vincent said. "The putt he made in the playoff took a tremendous amount of courage.... He has matured into one of the finest players in the country."
Although the senior was the most consistent performer on the course over the tournament's three rounds, it was the Sunday play of a freshman that ultimately made the difference for Duke and separated it from second-place N.C. State.
The Blue Devils recorded 24 birdies in the Intercollegiate's final day-and a third of those came from freshman Matthew Pierce. Pierce shot a tournament-low round of 65 Sunday to move 37 places up the leaderboard and into a tie for fifth.
The freshman overcame a 4-over 76 in Round 1, which included five bogeys and a double, to come up with one of the most inspired performances of his young college career. Of those six holes that plagued him Friday, Pierce birdied four and parred one Sunday.
Junior Clark Klaasen, who carded a 4-over in Saturday's round, was also able to mount a comeback, posting 13 pars and 3 birdies en route to a 1-under 71 Sunday.
The Blue Devils seem to be hitting their stride at just the right time, with the ACC Tournament looming this weekend at the Old North State Club in Badin Lake, N.C.
"It takes patience and a strong belief to win, and these young men showed a tremendous amount of both this weekend," Vincent said. "We need to have a couple of great days of practice and build on this momentum next week."
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