Blue Devils start Fall Preview

Duke’s season tees off today with the NCAA Fall Preview, a tournament that has been kind to the Blue Devils in the past. Just last year, Duke staged a marvelous comeback from a 10-shot deficit on the final day to steal the tournament from then-No. 1 UCLA. Now, senior Kim Donovan and the rest of the No. 6 Blue Devils will look to recapture that magic as play begins at the Texas A&M Traditions Club in Bryan, Texas.

The Fall Preview, a precursor to the NCAA Championships in May, which will also be held at the Traditions Club, will give Duke a tough early-season test, as 16 of the 18 teams participating are ranked in the Golfweek preseason top-25. Sophomore Lindy Duncan, however, is looking forward to the challenge, and sees the Preview as a good barometer for success this season.

“[It’s] our first tournament, [so] we get to see where everybody’s at and what we need to improve on,” Duncan said. “And with the competition, it’s probably our biggest tournament.”

Duncan and Donovan will lead a talented group for the Blue Devils this season, and will have to make up for the loss of Alison Whitaker, who graduated in May. Joining the two leaders is sophomore Courtney Ellenbogen and highly-touted freshmen Laetitia Beck and Alejandra Cangrejo, both of whom edged out sophomore Stacey Kim in tournament qualifying. With six interchangeable starters this year, head coach Dan Brooks is expecting low scores across the board, no matter whom he brings to play.

“I would be excited to have any five of the six in the lineup at any time. I wish I could take them all,” Brooks said. “It’s a mature group too—they’re all going to fight hard [to earn a spot in the lineup].”

If the level of competition were not enough, the Traditions Club course is one of the most demanding layouts of the year. The 6,271-yard Jack Nicklaus design uses the natural landscape to its full potential and puts a premium on accuracy from tee to green. Notorious for his attention to detail, Nicklaus-designed golf courses typically put an emphasis on placement, and severely punish wayward shots. Nearly every landing zone off the tee is well guarded by bunkers, and the many creeks and wetlands that dot the Traditions Club track could pose a problem for Duke, given that the Blue Devils have only had a few weeks of practice to prepare.

“It’s a lot of golf course. It’s got some tightness about it. It’s got a lot of hazards, and it takes some thinking. This is definitely a course that we want to go to the Preview for,” Brooks said.


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