Duke begins NCAA Preview

Duke’s season teed off yesterday 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.

The Blue Devils will have to mount a similar charge if they hope to claim back-to-back crowns. Sophomore Courtney Ellenbogen was the lone player to shoot under par, finishing 2-under Monday, and Duke sits in sixth place after the first day of play, 16 shots behind first-place Georgia. The Bulldogs set a course record, shooting an 11-under 277.

Georgia is one of many talented teams in the tournament. Sixteen of the 18 teams participating in this precursor to the NCAA Championships are ranked in the Golfweek preseason top-25. Sophomore Lindy Duncan, however, relishes 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 senior Kim Donovan will lead a talented group for the Blue Devils this season, and will have to make up for the loss of graduated senior Alison Whitaker. Joining the two leaders are 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, severely punishing 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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