As 2019 comes to a close, The Chronicle's sports department takes a look back at the biggest stories of the year in Duke athletics. Each day, we will review a major game, event or storyline that helped shape the course of the year for the Blue Devils.
Topping our list at No. 1: Women’s golf survives a series of tense matches on the last day of the NCAA tournament before clinching the program’s seventh NCAA title in extra holes on the final pairing of the day. The win marks the first national championship for any Duke team since 2015.
Looking over the scorecards more than seven months later, the tension of the final day of the 2019 women’s golf national championship is still palpable.
Duke knocked out Arizona, the defending national champion, on the final regulation hole of the last semifinal pairing in the morning. Then, three of its five matches that afternoon against Wake Forest went to extra holes, before the Blue Devils finally emerged with the victory.
Duke opened the day by taking down the Wildcats 3-2 in a thrilling contest that came down to the par-4 18th hole. Freshman Gina Kim entered the final hole leading her opponent by a stroke, but launched her first shot into a bunker. Her next shot to escape the sand, however, was a beauty that came to a rest less than three feet from the pin, allowing her to tap it in for birdie and send the Blue Devils into the championship round.
That afternoon, the Demon Deacons initially seemed in total control of the final, leading at one point 4-1 across the five matches on the back nine. However, the Blue Devils clawed their way back into the contest, and the first pairing of the day culminated with Ana Belac winning five of the first six holes on the back nine to pull away and give Duke a 1-0 lead.
Although Kim dropped the next match to allow Wake Forest to tie the contest at one match apiece, Jaravee Boonchant fought her way to an extra-hole victory in the third pairing to put Duke back in front 2-1. Senior Virginia Elena Carta—who was named one of nine finalists for the NCAA Women of the Year award this fall—couldn’t pull out a win to cap off her illustrious career, however, and so the championship came down to the final pairing between Duke’s Miranda Wang and Wake Forest’s Letizia Bagnoli.
Bagnoli had led for the first 14 holes of their match before Wang tied it in the fifteenth. After that, the two were deadlocked with zero margin for error. On their 20th hole, however, Wang finally got an opening. After Wang hit a perfect drive down the right side of the fairway, Bagnoli decided to try an ambitious approach from behind a tree in the middle of the course. Her shot hooked far to the left and out of play into a stream, giving Wang some breathing room. The Blue Devils sophomore reached the backside of the green in two more strokes, and then waited out a lengthy delay as Bagnoli decided how she would proceed with her next shot.
Finally, Bagnoli took a drop and then played up onto the green in two strokes. Wang, playing with a three-stroke advantage, chipped just past the pin and then putted within a few feet before Bagnoli conceded the hole—and the championship—to Duke.
For the Blue Devils, their seventh title pushed them to within one of the all-time leader in women’s golf championships, Arizona State. It also earned them an invitation to the White House to meet President Donald Trump, a well-noted golf enthusiast himself.
READ MORE on Duke's run to the national championship:
A look at the rest of our top 10 countdown:
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