When Duke last got a shot at match play in the NCAA championship, it was a No. 6 seed taking on third-seeded Southern California in Eugene, Ore. So, it was only fitting that after failing to get past the opening rounds in 2017, the Blue Devils found themselves in an identical scenario Tuesday.
Except this time around, the Trojans exacted revenge.
By a 3-1-1 margin, No. 3 seed USC topped sixth-seeded Duke at Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater, Okla., to advance to the national semifinals for a date with No. 2 seed Alabama Tuesday afternoon. The Crimson Tide went on to take down the Trojans by the same score, setting themselves up for a championship matchup with eighth-seeded Arizona Wednesday.
Leona Maguire ended her Blue Devil career on a high note, coming up with a clutch chip shot on the final hole of her match to escape with a 1-up victory. Although the senior will wind up with neither an individual nor a team NCAA title, Maguire leaves Durham with a Division I record—her 70.97 career scoring average is the best for any female golfer with at least 100 rounds.
"Leona set the bar in terms of hard work, as well as Lisa [Maguire], but also in her performance—just an amazing four years," Duke head coach Dan Brooks told GoDuke.com. "That bled into everybody else. It raised everybody else’s game."
Although Leona Maguire was the only Blue Devil to pick up a victory in her individual match, Duke had a couple of other close calls. Junior Virginia Elena Carta, who struggled mightily during the stroke-play rounds, got off to a great start Tuesday, taking advantage of her opponent's fifth-hole bogey to take control of the match from the get-go.
Even after Carta double-bogeyed the ninth hole of the match to bring things back to all square, she would never trail, and the Udine, Italy, native took back the lead and needed just a half of the final hole to clinch the point.
But when Carta missed her birdie putt, it left the door wide open for USC's Allisen Corpuz to drain a 10-foot birdie and send the match to extra holes. Neither Carta or Corpuz could top the other on holes 19 or 20, and the pair were playing their 21st when the Trojans sealed victory.
It was an opposite scenario for freshman Jaravee Boonchant, who trailed after back-to-back bogeys on her ninth and 10th holes and had to play from behind. Although Boonchant tried to crawl back from down a pair with a birdie on the match's 17th hole, she could not close the gap, ultimately falling 1-down.
And after Lisa Maguire's match ended 4-2 to give the Trojans their first point, Boonchant's defeat put USC within one win of advancing. So while Carta and Corpuz began their extra holes, attention turned to Ana Belac's match with Amelia Garvey.
Belac fell behind on the initial hole, and although the Slovenian leveled things with a par on the 15th hole—all matches started on the course's 10th hole—she proceeded to lose the next hole and never led.
Garvey birdied the match's ninth hole to go up by as many as three, but the momentum began to swing back in favor of the Blue Devil sophomore. Belac won three of the next five holes to bring things back to all square before the pair traded wins on the match's 15th and 16th holes.
That set up the drama which ultimately ended Duke's season.
Garvey took the penultimate hole, forcing Belac to win the match's 18th in order to extend the Blue Devils' hopes. But when her shot carried into the extremely deep rough, she had no choice but to pitch out, leading to a bogey.
"Ana came back—she was 3-down and she came to all square, then on that last hole, she had a ball that you could barely see down in that high grass," Brooks said. "She got it out far enough to be able to get a club on it and I told her, ‘You need to hole this out.’"
"She hit to within a foot of the hole and that was just remarkable that she could get it to there like that. But it wasn’t meant to be."
With Garvey 10 feet from the hole in three shots and needing just a half to earn the match, Belac conceded, giving the Trojans the last point they needed to move on.
Although the Maguire sisters will depart, Duke will have Boonchant, Carta and Belac back next season along with redshirt freshman Miranda Wang, who hasn't played since late March, and freshman Hannah O'Sullivan. Brooks' squad is also set to add Chapel Hill native Gina Kim, giving a local feel to a roster that was entirely made up of international players during the Blue Devils' postseason run.
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A junior from just outside Philadelphia, Mitchell is probably reminding you how the Eagles won the Super Bowl this year and that the Phillies are definitely on the rebound. Outside of The Chronicle, he majors in Economics, minors in Statistics and is working toward the PJMS certificate, in addition to playing trombone in the Duke University Marching Band. And if you're getting him a sandwich with beef and cheese outside the state of Pennsylvania, you best not call it a "Philly cheesesteak."