After Friday’s opening round, the Blue Devils were in position to make the cut and advance to the fourth round of stroke play.
Two rounds later, that dream came to an end, as did Duke's season.
The Blue Devils finished tied for 24th with Arizona State at the NCAA championship after the final teams made it off the course Monday morning to conclude the third round. Duke completed its third round Sunday and posted an overall score of 39-over-par at the 7,483 yard, par-72 Concession Golf Club in Bradenton, Fla. Georgia soared to the top of the leaderboard with a two-under-par final round to claim the top spot at three-over-par moving into the fourth round of stroke play, which features just the 15 lowest-scoring teams.
Freshman Jake Shuman fired two under-par rounds to qualify for Monday's fourth round as a top-performing individual, and turned in another impressive performance, finishing his rookie campaign with a one-under 71 and tying for 16th place.
A nine-over-par 297 in Friday’s opening round put the Blue Devils in 13th and in prime position to make the cut, but a 21-over-par 309 Saturday sunk their hopes of advancing further and dropped the squad to 25th.
“Nobody really played well the second day. When you have a field of teams that are as strong as this group in the national championship, you’ve got to have somebody step up,” Duke head coach Jamie Green said. “But we just didn’t have that the second day. There’s no excuses. It’s a challenging golf course. We didn’t get off to a great start, we weren’t making tons of birdies out there [Saturday] in the second round.”
Shuman fueled Friday's hot start, carding a three-under-par 69—a Duke freshman NCAA championship record. Despite opening with three bogeys in his first six holes, the Needham, Mass., native roared back to post an eagle and four birdies in his final seven holes as he dipped into the 60s.
The highlight of the round came on the 580-yard, par-five 3rd—Duke began the day on the back nine—thanks to a hybrid shot that Shuman crushed from 250 yards away, leaving him just a tap-in for eagle. Green said that hole—which dropped the freshman down to one over for the day—was the turning point for Shuman in the opening round.
“Sometimes golfers just need the littlest things or one thing to surge into an air of confidence where they feel like they can pull of any shot. I think at that moment, he kind of got that surge, that feeling,” Green said. “You could see it in his eyes, you could see it in his walk. That first day the back nine where he shot 30, shot six-under, I didn’t look at too many of the scores from other players, but that might be the best nine holes in the tournament.”
Shuman’s strong finish—combined with solid one-over-par rounds from classmate Adam Wood and senior Turner Southey-Gordon—allowed the Blue Devils to absorb an 82 from sophomore Max Greyserman and still put up a competitive score Friday.
Saturday’s second round brought some tough sledding for Duke, as Wood led the team with a two-over-par 74 and the squad counted three other rounds in the high 70s. Shuman recorded just two birdies after his scorching finish to Friday’s round, and Southey-Gordon failed to register a birdie en route to a seven-over-par 79.
Heading into Sunday, the Blue Devils knew they had to make a run in order to crack the top 15 and earn another day on the course. But Duke got off to a slow start—saddled by Southey-Gordon’s quadruple-bogey eight on the opening hole—and was unable to post the under-par round it needed to move up the leaderboard.
The Blue Devils closed strong—scoring two-over-par collectively on the front nine after again starting on No. 10—to finish with the same 297 as Friday. Shuman once again topped the team leaderboard, collecting five birdies en route to a 71—his second under-par round of the tournament—as he moved into a tie for 23rd, qualifying him for Monday's fourth round.
Wood carded another 74 Saturday, putting him at five-over-par through the three rounds, good for a tie for 44th. Coupled with Shuman’s finish, the performance gave Duke two rookies in the top 50, a great sign for Green’s program heading into next year.
“We’ve been fortunate over the years I’ve been at Duke that we’ve had some special players come in here and in their freshman years play well,” Green said. “Another freshman tandem in Adam Wood and Jake Shuman were really leaders on the golf course for us, scoring-wise…. Those two guys leading the team this year is a great environment for us to build on and we’re excited for next year as a team, for sure.”
The Blue Devils’ exit from the tournament marked the end of Southey-Gordon’s career in a Duke uniform. As the lone starting senior on a fairly inexperienced squad, Green pointed to Southey-Gordon’s unique blend of graciousness and fiery competitiveness as indicative of the culture he helped establish.
The impact that the Toronto native had on the program will continue to be felt even after his departure, but one moment on the course sticks out to Green—Southey-Gordon’s two-under-par performance at the Lubbock regional to help his team qualify for the NCAA tournament.
“Last tournament in regionals, for him to play those two under-par rounds that he did…. When you look at the season, you know, he had okay rounds and okay tournaments, but not at that time and not at that moment,” Green said. “It was such a big leadership performance for us to get us in position to advance onto a national championship. I couldn’t say enough about him. He’s been terrific for our program.”
This article was updated Tuesday morning to reflect the results of Shuman's fourth round.
Get The Chronicle straight to your inbox
Signup for our weekly newsletter. Cancel at any time.