After last season ended with the program’s seventh national championship, expectations are once again high for the Blue Devils on the links. After losing only Virginia Elena Carta to graduation and adding two highly-touted freshmen in Erica Shepherd and Megan Furtney, Duke is slated to be one of the top contenders once the calendar shifts to late May for the NCAA Championship.
The fourth-ranked Blue Devils started the spring season strong with a first-place finish at the Northrop Grumman Regional Challenge in Palos Verdes, Calif., last month, but were dealt a challenge this past weekend at the Darius Rucker Intercollegiate. A challenging Pete Dye Course layout in Hilton Head, S.C., combined with severe winds, placed an emphasis on controlling your ball flight off the tee and on approach shots. After a disappointing start in the first two days, Duke ended this past weekend's tournament on a high note with a 290 Sunday total to finish third behind Wake Forest and Auburn. Here are some key takeaways from the Blue Devils’ performance over the weekend.
Three statistics that stand out
Eleven birdies by Miranda Wang: As was the case in California, Miranda Wang led the field in birdies. The redshirt junior from Beijing consistently exceled with her ball striking and finished her final round with three birdies in her final five holes to shoot a one-over-par 72. Making birdies in bunches also means that you get it rolling on the greens, and Wang cashed in on Sunday to the tune of 29 total putts.
Erica Shepherd shoots a 71: The best performance from a Blue Devil in the final round came from the talented freshman out of Greenwood, Ind. After getting off to a hot start on the front nine, Shepherd came back to the pack slightly with just one birdie on the back nine. However, her performance over the first seven holes cannot be understated, as her exceptional short game resulted in three birdies. She even chipped in on the fourth hole, displaying her ability to recover.
Ana Belac hits 13 fairways and 13 greens: After being named a third-team All-American last season, Belac tried her hand in LPGA Qualifying School in the fall. The senior from Portoroz, Slovenia secured status on the Symetra Tour for the 2020 professional season. But before that, her sights are set on another collegiate title. Over the three days at Long Cove Club this past weekend, Belac posted Duke's best total with a six-over-par 219. On Sunday, her consistent performance from tee to green gave her countless opportunities, as she hit 13 fairways and 13 greens in regulation. If she can see just a few more putts roll in, Belac will have an opportunity to shoot some very low rounds if her ball striking is up to the task.
Head coach Dan Brooks to GoDuke.com on the team’s overall performance:
“We finished a distant third, which wasn’t what we’d hoped for. But our attitudes were good, and we have a few days to sharpen up for our next event.”
Next on the agenda
A quick turnaround is needed for Duke, as the Valspar Augusta Invitational gets started this Saturday. Belac, Shepherd, junior Jaravee Boonchant and sophomore Gina Kim must all also prepare for the Augusta National Women’s Amateur, which will take place April 1-4.
Get Overtime, all Duke athletics
Signup for our editorially curated, weekly newsletter. Cancel at any time.