Difficult course looms at ACCs

This morning, No. 5 Duke will tee off in the ACC Championships at Sedgefield Country Club in Greensboro, N.C., looking to continue the Blue Devils’ dominance of the tournament over the past two decades. Before being dethroned by Wake Forest last year, Duke won 13 ACC titles in a row from 1996 to 2008.

Freshman Lindy Duncan will hope to carry the substantial momentum she’s generated in the spring season into Greensboro. Duncan leads the ACC in scoring average at 72.38, and is coming off of two consecutive top-five finishes—including a tournament victory in the Liz Murphey Classic—over Duke’s last two outings.

“I’m just going to try and have a really good practice round, and try to learn the greens as best I can,” Duncan said.

The unique greens will likely be the story of the weekend, and the team that can tame the dome-shaped surfaces has a good chance at winning come Sunday. Sedgefield was designed by legendary golf architect Donald Ross, the mastermind behind countless American classics including Oakland Hills and North Carolina’s own Pinehurst No. 2, and the course will prove to be one of the stiffest challenges Duke has faced this year. Ross courses are typified by subtle natural challenges and unforgivingly undulating greens that reward only the most accurate approaches.

 “When you play courses like Sedgefield, it’s kind of like there are three greens within one green,” senior Alison Whitaker said, “and you have to know which part to hit into. Sometimes you have to hit away from where the flag is.”

Head coach Dan Brooks has been stressing short-game preparation ahead of the test at Sedgefield, as the Blue Devils as a team were slightly lackluster when close to the hole two weeks ago at the Bryan National Collegiate. To simulate the fast pace of the upcoming greens, the groundskeepers have cut the grass shorter at the Duke practice facility.

And although the Blue Devils will be prepared for the slippery surfaces, they will need to remain focused and hit intelligent shots to overcome the landscape.

 “It feels like you’re trying to land the ball on a basketball,” Brooks said. “The ball just wants to spill off in any direction.”

The break in the schedule following Duke’s last tournament April 2-4 has been kind to the Blue Devils, who have all been able to sharpen their games in practice. Freshman Courtney Ellenbogen, for one, has made visible advances in her ball striking over the past week and a half. She will need to be accurate over the par-71 track, which includes more than a few well-guarded landing areas off the tee and bunkers surrounding many of the greens.

“Courtney’s made a really evident improvement with her long game, and it takes some courage to do that [at this point in the year],” Brooks said. “She’s got a big challenge ahead of her.”


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