Duke tied for second place in its second tournament of the year, an outcome that has become typical for the successful program.
However, this tournament was anything but familiar.
The 25th-ranked Blue Devils withstood unprecedented weather conditions at the Sea Best Invitational in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., Monday and Tuesday, with senior Adrien Pendaries emphasizing both the cold and 20-30 mile per hour winds.
The tournament’s final scores are a clear indication of those conditions. The winning team, North Florida, finished at 21 over par, 12 strokes ahead of both Duke and Liberty. Nevertheless, the Blue Devils stuck together and managed to fire a few low scores to stay near the top of the leaderboard, with freshman Ian Siebers’ final round 69 locking up Duke’s second-place finish and stirring up optimism for the future of the program.
“I know I’ve been playing well but I know I can do even better. There’s definitely some things I can improve on in order to help the team more,” Siebers said. “I look forward to getting back to work and continuing to contribute.”
Siebers, who signed his national letter of intent last spring as the 22nd-ranked recruit in the country, joined the Blue Devils with a long resume of success as a junior golfer. He won several major tournaments, including the 2019 Junior America’s Cup, and was named the Pacific Northwest Junior Player of the Year in both 2018 and 2019. The Bellevue, Wash., native also competed for the U.S. Junior President’s Cup Team in 2019.
And if his first two tournaments as a Blue Devil are any indication, Siebers has no plans of slowing down at the collegiate level. He finished eighth overall individually Tuesday after finishing tied for ninth in the team’s opening tournament last week.
While Siebers was a new contributing factor to Duke success, Pendaries was a familiar face atop the leaderboard for the Blue Devils with a team-leading third-place individual finish.
Pendaries, ranked 47th in the Golfweek individual rankings, was a model of consistency on the Dye’s Valley course, finishing even par for the week with an opening round 70, followed by a 69 and a 71 to round out the tournament. Even with a strong performance, Pendaries is hungry for more this season.
“Last time that we played [in] the Sea Best Invitational we went all the way and almost won the national championship,” Pendaries said. “This time we did better and we’re keen to improve on our last two performances, to work up to that national championship.”
While the spring golf season has been permitted to continue as planned amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the tournament style has not gone unchanged. In order to reduce contact between different teams, the golfers play with only their own teammates, a switch which creates new challenges for the players.
“You can fall into the trap of feeling a bit too casual. It can sometimes feel like a round of golf with your friends, so you have to be careful,” Pendaries said of the new format. “I consciously try to make myself understand that this is a tournament, but you make the best of it...and try to go compete.”
And in the Sea Best Invitational this week, that’s exactly what Pendaries and the team did: compete. However, tough weather early in the season is far from the only obstacle this team will face.
When asked about the team's goals this season, Siebers had a simple answer: “Playing in and possibly winning a national championship in May.”
To do that, the Blue Devils will have to continue to compete throughout a season sure to bring more challenges along the way.
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