Blue Devils mount Preview comeback

Sophomore Lindy Duncan was Duke’s low-scorer at the NCAA Fall Preview. Duncan carded a 66 Tuesday and a 71 Wednesday to finish T-5.
Sophomore Lindy Duncan was Duke’s low-scorer at the NCAA Fall Preview. Duncan carded a 66 Tuesday and a 71 Wednesday to finish T-5.

For the second year running, the Blue Devils made up a ton of ground on the final day of the NCAA Fall Preview—but this year the deficit to start the day was simply too much to overcome. No. 8 Duke shot the best round of the day Wednesday with an 8-under 280 to climb to fourth, but ultimately fell short of winner Alabama at the Traditions Club in Bryan, Texas.

Sophomore Lindy Duncan, behind her second-day 66 and a routine 71 on Wednesday, finished in a tie for fifth overall at 5-under. LSU senior Megan McChrystal snatched the individual title from the hands of Vanderbilt’s Marina Alex after a sublime back nine in which she birdied five of the final six holes to win with a score of 10-under.

Despite falling short, Duke’s performance Wednesday may have been a sign of things to come.

“We really took care of business,” head coach Dan Brooks said. “I’m not sure we did anything different—we just stayed patient, played hard, and the putts started dropping.”

Wednesday proved to be moving day, as many teams went low in the final round, none more so than the Blue Devils. Excluding Courtney Ellenbogen, who shot a 77, every Blue Devil shot under par over the final 18 holes, led by senior Kim Donovan and freshman Aleja Cangrejo, who carded matching 69s. Freshman Laetitia Beck followed up her even-par second day with a 1-under 71 Wednesday.

Duncan, the reigning ACC Player of the Year, took a bit of time to shake off the rust on day one with a mediocre 2-over 74, but came out firing Tuesday, playing the 6,271-yard Jack Nicklaus design to the tune of a 6-under 66, her best collegiate round.

“I practiced really hard [after Monday’s round] to figure a few things out. It was really important,” Duncan said. “Everything was on and I was really confident in all parts of my game.”

The sophomore put on a clinic in the second round, hitting 16 greens in regulation. She birdied three of the four par-5s as a part of her bogey-free day. Wednesday, Duncan started off well with another birdie on the 511-yard par-5 5th, but managed only one birdie the rest of the day, on the par-4 12th, before giving a shot back at the 15th.

After a shaky first round, Brooks emphasized the importance of avoiding bogeys and double-bogeys, especially given the relatively easy course conditions. The Blue Devils improved remarkably by day three, and played only 11 holes over par as a team. Much of the final-round surge can be attributed to the stellar play of the two freshmen, Beck and Cangrejo, in their collegiate debuts.

Beck recovered to shoot scores of 72 and 71—after a birdieless first round left her at 6-over—carding only two bogeys on the final day. Cangrejo was a model of consistency in her first two rounds, with scores of 74 on Monday and Tuesday. After a bogey on the first hole Wednesday, the freshman reeled off three birdies over the next six holes, and finished with a 69.

“I don’t look at freshmen with high expectations or with low expectations... they can be anything and everything,” Brooks said. “But I couldn’t be prouder of what these two did, it was tremendous.”

With the biggest tournament of the fall now complete, Duke will look to carry the momentum it generated to the Mason Rudolph Championship in just under two weeks. For Brooks, the Blue Devils’ brilliant play Wednesday was just a flash of what he’s expecting for every round.

“We’ve got more in us,” Brooks said. “Hopefully we’ll go into the next tournament with a lot of confidence and do a little better.”


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