Blue Devil comeback falls just short at ACCs

Freshman Lindy Duncan finished tied for fourth individually with teammate Stacey Kim with a score of 3-over par at the ACC Championships.
Freshman Lindy Duncan finished tied for fourth individually with teammate Stacey Kim with a score of 3-over par at the ACC Championships.

Facing a 15-shot deficit entering the third and final day of the ACC Championships in Greensboro, N.C., the No. 5 Blue Devils knew they needed to play nearly flawless golf and hope for some help in order to capture the program’s 17th ACC title. Although No. 13 Wake Forest opened the door Sunday with its worst round of the weekend, Duke just couldn’t overcome a wealth of high scores on the unforgiving 6,355-yard Sedgefield layout.

The Blue Devils were just one shot behind Wake Forest as the first groups were nearing the final holes after a stellar front-nine erased the Demon Deacons’ lead. However, against some of the toughest holes on the course, Duke wasn’t able to put the cap on a remarkable comeback, and the Blue Devils had to settle for third place, five shots behind Wake Forest and one stroke back of No. 17 Virginia.

Wake Forest freshman Michelle Shin birdied the 54th and final hole to lower her total to 2-under for the tournament, good for a one-stroke victory over Virginia’s Brittany Altomare on the individual table.

On a windy third day, Duke came out on fire, looking to atone for a late Saturday slip during which senior Alison Whitaker dropped five shots over the last two holes and Kim Donovan put her tee shot on the par-3 16th into a water hazard. Donovan birdied the first hole of the day Sunday, and four of five Blue Devils played the front nine at par or better on a day when the field was averaging scores of 11-over.

“The great thing about this group is that it’s not about what you tell them [before the round]—they were ready to go,” head coach Dan Brooks said. “They came out believing it was possible for us to win this.”

Freshman Courtney Ellenbogen fired the shot of the day just minutes into her round. On the par-4 2nd, Ellenbogen smashed her drive—a blind shot over a few elevated bunkers—into the left rough, leaving her 140 yards to the flag with the ball slightly below her feet. Ellenbogen flew a nine iron just short of the green to a front pin placement with the green sloping away from her, thinking she’d have a good chance at birdie.

“It rolled perfectly down to the right and into the hole,” she said. “I couldn’t quite see the ball go in, but all the people cheered.”

Ellenbogen’s eagle and birdies on 16 and 18 propelled her to a round of 73, her best of the weekend. Donovan also parlayed her hot start into a solid day, carding an even-par 71. No Blue Devil finished worse than 16th individually, with three players—Whitaker and freshmen Stacey Kim and Lindy Duncan—finishing in the top ten.

Big numbers plagued Duke throughout the weekend, however, and stripped the Blue Devils of a chance to win as a team. Duke had an uncharacteristic 11 double-bogeys in three rounds, as well as a triple-bogey on the 16th and a quadruple-bogey on the ultra-narrow par-4 17th.

“It’s a great finishing golf course,” Brooks said. “You can play a lot of good golf, and it can turn against you on the last few holes.”

Duke’s unflappable resolve was apparent Sunday however, as the Blue Devils were at least 10 shots better in the final round than any team but Virginia, which edged Duke by a shot. Against one of the toughest courses Duke has played this year, Brooks was pleased to leave Sedgefield just 22-over par.

“Our effort was really good—it just didn’t go our way,” Brooks said. “When you don’t win, this is the kind of losing you want to do—when you do all you can and it just doesn’t go your way.”


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