Jake Shuman knew he needed a strong close to the weekend to contend for the individual title.
“I checked the leaderboard on the 10th tee to see where I was, see where the team was and kind of figured I needed to do something,” he said. “After 13, I figured if I wasn’t leading, I had to be close.”
The sophomore birdied the first four holes on the back nine Sunday afternoon at the ACC championship, part of a six-birdie final round en route to a five-under-par 67. Shuman entered the final 18 holes tied for second, but his strong close to the round was not enough to elevate him to the top of the podium at the Old North State Club in New London, N.C.. Louisville’s Robin Sciot-Siegrist birdied the 17th hole and eagled the 18th to capture his second straight individual title at 10 under par, forcing Shuman to settle for a tie with N.C. State’s Jacob McBride for second.
Shuman carded 14 birdies in the 54 holes, shooting a combined nine under par on par-fours and -fives for the weekend. The Needham, Mass., native was the lone Blue Devil under par, though, as No. 18 Duke finished in fifth place at one over par, 26 shots off the lead.
Despite vaulting himself into contention with the four consecutive birdies, Shuman said he tried to approach the rest of the round the same way, rather than focusing on where he stood on the leaderboard.
“I didn’t check after that. I didn’t want to change my game plan or change what I was doing because of anything else,” Shuman said. “I learned two weeks ago in Princeton that I’ve got to keep the pedal down and not play conservatively on the way in, even if you have a lead. I didn’t want to know where I was, I just wanted to keep trying to make birdies on the way in.”
A bogey on the 17th hole slowed Shuman’s momentum, but he responded with a birdie on his last hole of the day to wind up tied with McBride.
Shuman’s weekend began with six birdies Friday, but three bogeys kept him tied for second at three under. He carded a clean scorecard of one under Saturday—with just two birdies and one bogey—before heating up again Sunday.
“Although he didn’t make as many birdies on the front nine [Sunday], he knocked on the door a lot,” Duke head coach Jamie Green said. “He recognized a couple holes you didn’t need to hit driver, and he had an extra club or two into a green, but that gave him the best chance to get a putt at it. He did that when he had to, other times he trusted his driver and he did drive it well.”
Freshman Alex Smalley—fresh off the first collegiate win of his career April 10 at the Princeton Invitational—had an up-and-down weekend, carding at least three birdies in every round. But the rookie also hurt his chances with a double-bogey on the 11th hole Friday, and balanced his five-birdie final round with six bogeys that kept him at one over par for the day and tournament. Smalley finished in a tie for 23rd.
The par-five 11th—which played as the third-easiest hole for the weekend—was also unkind to junior Matt Oshrine, who triple-bogeyed that hole Sunday, marring what would have otherwise been an even-par close to the event. The Loyola transfer finished tied for 36th at five over par, one shot back of sophomore Adam Wood. The owner of the Blue Devils’ lowest scoring average entering the weekend, Wood carded three similar rounds in New London, but was kept out of contention by front-nine struggles each day.
Duke made the third-most birdies for the weekend with 48—just five fewer than champion No. 10 Clemson—but could not convert that success into lower scores.
“Historically in this championship, unless there’s heavy rain or wind, you’re bound to see some low scores by the leading teams,” Green said. “We knew that going in, we prepared for that coming in, we just didn’t quite wedge it close enough and convert the putts that we would have liked.”
Duke will await an invitation to the NCAA regionals May 16-18, when it will need to be in the top five in order to qualify for a second straight trip to the NCAA championship, held this year in Eugene, Ore.
“You’re not going to make every putt, but I still feel like I could have made more putts on the front nine. I had four or five putts within 20, 25 feet that I didn’t make, so if one of those goes in and I had the back nine that I had, I’m in a playoff and not finishing second,” Shuman said. “I played well, but there’s always room to work on things.”