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Duke men's golf eyes second straight top-5 finish at Nike Collegiate Invitational

<p>Sophomore Alex Smalley and the Blue Devils are hoping to card three consistent rounds for the first time this season.</p>

Sophomore Alex Smalley and the Blue Devils are hoping to card three consistent rounds for the first time this season.

After tinkering with their lineup in the first two tournaments of the season, the Blue Devils have switched it up again in search of the best combination.

No. 19 Duke will look to build on a second-place finish at the Inverness Intercollegiate two weeks ago when it hits the course for the Nike Collegiate Invitational Sunday through Tuesday at the Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth, Texas. The tournament feature a 15-team field and a shotgun start Sunday morning at 8:45, followed by 18 more holes each of the next two days.

Junior Jake Shuman is the only player teeing it up in the same position for the Blue Devils, with freshman Chandler Eaton taking the place of junior Adam Wood in the lineup. Shuman—who tied for first place at the Inverness Intercollegiate—has posted top-10 finishes in both of the team’s events this season, with just one over-par score in six rounds. He will be followed in the lineup by sophomore Alex Smalley, Eaton and seniors Max Greyserman and Matt Oshrine.

Duke will face stiff competition at the par-70, 7,209-yard course, going up against ACC foe and No. 10 Wake Forest in addition to five other top-25 teams. With only two par-5’s on the course and a layout that is challenging but not particularly lengthy, precision with irons and near the greens will be key as the Blue Devils look to string together three solid rounds for the first time this year.

Consistency has been an issue for Duke during the fall season—all five players in the lineup have carded rounds in the 60s, but all except Shuman have also turned in clunkers in the high 70s. The Blue Devils put themselves in position to contend for a victory at the Inverness Intercollegiate, but were done in by a 4-over-par final round, similar to how a 9-over-par team score in the second round of the Rod Meyers Invitational ruined two below-par marks.

Although Eaton did not compete in the team’s lineup in its last competition, he did participate as an individual—with sparkling results. The Alpharetta, Ga., native tied for fourth individually with a cumulative score of 2-under-par, and was the only Blue Devil to post two rounds less than 70. Head coach Jamie Green has been cautious with the talented freshman thanks to an otherwise veteran squad, but his strong performance at the Inverness Club forced his hand and Eaton will slide in at the No. 3 slot this week.

Eaton will have an opportunity to play near home at Duke’s next tournament—following the Nike Intecollegiate Invitational, the Blue Devils are set to play in the U.S. Collegiate Championship in Eaton’s hometown of Alpharetta.

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