U.S. College Championship presents Duke men's golf with its next challenge

Senior Yaroslav Merkulov is the lone Duke player to have played the course in Alpharetta, Ga.
Senior Yaroslav Merkulov is the lone Duke player to have played the course in Alpharetta, Ga.

After their first top-five finish of the season, the Blue Devils will face one of their toughest tests of the fall.

Duke will start competition at the U.S. Collegiate Championship just five days after completing play at the Rod Myers Invitational and finishing in a tie for third place at its home course. The 54-hole U.S. Collegiate Championship features 15 of the nation's top golf teams, 10 of which are ranked in Golfweek's latest rankings, and will be played at the Golf Club of Georgia's 7,017 yard, par-72 Lakeside Course in Alpharetta, Ga.

"It's a great opportunity for our guys," head coach Jamie Green said. "We appreciate the invitation and we know it's a great venue. The folks at the Golf Club of Georgia and the committee for the US Collegiate do a wonderful job providing a great experience for the folks coming up to watch and the players."

Since the event is annually played at the Lakeside Course, the Blue Devils may not be as familiar with the course as more experienced teams. Senior Yaroslav Merkulov is the only Blue Devil in the lineup who has played the course. He will be looking to continue his strong play after finishing the last 36 holes of the Rod Myers Invitational at five-under-par to finish in a tie for 11th.

"We'll look to his leadership [this week]," Green said. "He actually played some fantastic golf his freshman year [at the Rod Myers Invitational], so he's had some success at Duke University Golf Club.... I wasn't surprised to see him do well, but it's been awhile since his freshman year and he's battled through some injuries.... To have him finish up his senior year at our home tournament that way was a great thing for him."

Merkulov will be joined by sophomore Motin Yeung, freshmen Max Greyserman and Alexander Matlari and junior Michael Ricaurte. Ricaurte is back in the team lineup after competing as an individual in the Rod Myers Invitational and tying for 16th.

"In our preparation [during the practice round], we'll have to focus a lot to make sure the new guys can feel comfortable on this track," Green said.

Of the six competitive rounds he has carded this season, Yeung—a decorated junior golfer from Hong Kong—has carded four rounds at even par or under par. He will look to build on his sixth-place finish from the Rod Myers Invitational.

"He's very comfortable at this level," Green said. "He probably had the most successful summer of all of our players.... He's probably performed at the highest level of the rest of the guys on our team, so it's not a surprise to see him play pretty well for us. For him to be in the lineup consistently [after playing sporadically as a freshman] bodes well for us."

The Lakeside Course is one of the most picturesque courses in the nation and was deemed "Best New Private Course in America" in 1991 by Golf Digest. Its premier hole—the 607-yard par 5 11th—was honored by Golf Digest in 1991 as one of "America's Best 99 Golf Holes." But when the Blue Devils take to the course this weekend, they won't have much time to admire the scenery.

"The golf course demands everything of you," Green said. "It actually has a lot of similarities to Old North State where we play our ACC Championship. That's a good thing for our players.... If you're going to perform well and be one of the top players in this field, you've got to do everything pretty well."


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