On a weekend that should’ve been marked by the fun and excitement of country singer Darius Rucker in a tournament dubbed “The Greatest Show in Women’s Collegiate Golf,” the Blue Devils faced anything but fun as they packed their bags for the Long Cove Club in Hilton Head, S.C.
A flu virus that spread throughout the team and a rib injury to senior Virginia Elena Carta provided quite the adversity for No. 3 Duke, which responded well the first two days before faltering the third day. After falling seven strokes behind No. 10 South Carolina Friday with a respectable 289 and finding themselves placed fourth, the Blue Devils carded a solid 288 on Day 2 to jump into second. However, a subpar 296 on the final day proved to be too much as Duke settled for a 17-over-par fourth-place finish. The Blue Devils ended up two shots behind South Carolina and No. 13 Wake Forest—who tied for second—but the playing field was outpaced by No. 19 Florida State’s two-under-par three-day total of 850, a tournament record.
“The last day was a disappointment,” Duke head coach Dan Brooks said. “I felt pretty good after the first two days, but the third day just wasn’t a great day for us. I saw some mistakes being made that could’ve been avoided. The worst stuff I saw that last day didn’t have anything to do with health.”
Nevertheless, Brooks was proud of his team’s effort and was particularly impressed by the play of freshman Gina Kim, who finished even-par at 213, good enough to tie for fifth place individually. After starting off steady with an even 71 Friday, she carded six birdies and three bogeys for an excellent 68 on Day 2 before finishing the tournament with a 3-over 74, including three bogeys in the first four holes.
“I thought they handled it really well. It’s hard to play sick, it really is—you’ve got to be really focused, and it’s hard to swing when you’ve got an injury,” Brooks said. “I think they got real tough the first couple days. I’m real proud of Gina—she wasn’t getting good sleep because she was coughing through the night, and…[she] only got to play 10 holes in the practice round because we were just trying to conserve her energy. That first day, she scored better on the 10 holes that she actually played than the practice round.”
Turning in an even better performance was sophomore Jaravee Boonchant, who ended up in fourth place with a one-under 212. After two bogeys in the back nine gave her a one-over 72 on Friday, the 10th-ranked Thailander scored a one-under 70 the second day before tacking on another 70 by going all of Sunday without a bogey, the only Duke player to not struggle that last day.
“She’s just a rock,” Brooks said. “The two of them [Boonchant and Kim] just did a great job—obviously their scores kept us in the top five.”
The rest of the squad didn’t fare as well, with all three players carding a five-over-par 76 on the final day. The next highest individual finish came from Virginia Elena Carta, who tied for 30th with an 8-over 221. A promising Day 1 start with two birdies in the first three holes couldn’t be sustained, as she carded five bogeys in her final 15 holes for a two-over-par 73. After following that up with a solid 72 on Saturday, six bogeys on the final day gave her a 76.
Meanwhile, the 24th-ranked junior from Slovenia, Ana Belac, saw a stable beginning with all pars on the front nine before three bogeys and a birdie gave her a 73 Friday. A double bogey on Day 2 resulted in a 74, while two more double bogeys on Sunday landed her a 76 and a 36th place finish. On the other hand, redshirt sophomore Miranda Wang started off on the wrong foot with eight bogeys on Friday for a seven-over 78. After an improved day two score of 74 and two birdies on the front nine of day three, a disastrous back nine including a triple bogey and two double bogeys forced another five-over 76.
Coming up next for the Blue Devils will be the Evans Derby Experience at the Auburn University Club March 23-25, while all except Wang will be competing in the inaugural Augusta National Women’s Amateur from April 3-6 in Augusta, Ga., Without a tournament during spring break, Duke will be glad to have some time off to recover.
“Three of them are still here, so we’ll be doing plenty of individual work out there. But I hope that they get ahead of their studies. Four of them have the Augusta event coming up, and that’s going to take a big bite out of their spring, so they need to use this time during spring break.”
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