Bouncing back from a rough 12th-place finish the previous weekend, Duke strung together three rounds of solid golf to finish fourth in the Wake Forest Invitational at the legendary Pinehurst No. 2 golf course.
If only one word could be used to describe the Blue Devils’ performance Monday and Tuesday, it would be consistency. The team’s leading and lowest scorer finished only 12 strokes apart, tied for the lowest margin of any of the 11 teams in the tournament. Furthermore, at no point throughout the entire tournament did a Blue Devil have a score outside the top 32 individuals in play.
“I think the guys … put themselves in a good position through the 36 hole day,” head coach Jamie Green said. “Obviously, [Adrien Pendaries] played a bit better and more consistently than the group, but overall I think it was a great bounce-back for us. We really did not play well in the previous tournament, and it was great for us to regroup.”
Pendaries, a senior from Neuilly-sur-Seine, France, was able to fight against the current to finish fourth individually, his second top-five placement in this young season. He shot a team-best in each of the three rounds during the tournament to finish an even 210. Pendaries also tallied 11 birdies, which placed him tied for second in the tournament and one off the leader.
“The real shining star with Adrien is his maturity and growth,” Green said. “He’s been a tremendous talent since the day he walked on campus, but to be able to acknowledge the areas in which he can sharpen and be a little more consistent is what makes him great. We always say to the team that everyone has the firepower to shoot low scores, but it’s when your bad rounds and bad shots are still pretty good, that’s when you can compete with anybody.
“Adrien knows how to get it around when he doesn't have his best stuff, and also knows when to dial back and not go full throttle all the time. He’s a tactical player with great game management, and great for our younger guys to be around. He is one of the better players in the country who will have a promising career after college.”
Duke sat at third place at the end of the second round, just one stroke behind eventual runner-up North Carolina and nine behind eventual winner Wake Forest. While the Blue Devils eventually slid to a distant fourth, their performance early, as well as the overall performances from their freshmen, showed great promise.
“You never know what to expect when a new guy comes in, no matter what their previous accolades looked like, because there are obviously adjustments to be made. We are really proud of Ian [Siebers] and Jimmy [Zheng], specifically because of their consistency,” Green said of the two freshmen in the team’s regular lineup.
Zheng and Siebers finished tied for 15th and tied for 20th in the tournament, respectively.
During the first two rounds Monday, Duke didn’t have a single player shoot worse than a 75 in a round. However, in the third round Tuesday, three of the five Blue Devils shot above this mark, including graduate student Steven DiLisio, who shot a 74 and 68 over the first two rounds, respectively, but an 80 for his third.
In general, higher scores were shot across the board over the two days. Pinehurst No. 2, which is located 80 miles southwest of Duke in Pinehurst, N.C., has long been known throughout the golf community as being a notoriously hard course to perform well on. With tough approach shots and never-ending fairways, it seems like a nightmare disguised as nature to the average player.
“[Pinehurst] is certainly very unique in that you don’t want to get yourself in a bind off the tee,” Green said following the team’s last tournament. “So as long as you’re in position and not having to scramble coming into the green, you should be all right…. If you can control your golf ball from tee to green you can be successful there.”
The Blue Devils now look forward to the Valspar Collegiate Invitational in Palm City, Fla., which will take place March 15-16. The tournament will mark the final time prior to the ACC Championships Duke will tee off against either No. 2 Wake Forest or No. 10 North Carolina.
“At the end of the day, we are all playing the golf course. We end up pitting against each other for recruits, and at the end of the day we all have strong recruiting classes, so it’s exciting to face them,” Green said of the two nearby rivals. “They are great measuring sticks for us to see where we stack up against really good competition.”
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