Duke teed off Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday for the three-round NCAA Columbus Regional and finished with a final score of 867 (+15), putting the Blue Devils in eighth place. This result for head coach Jamie Green's squad, unfortunately for Duke, doesn't grant the team a visit to Scottsdale, Ariz., for the NCAA Championship, as the Blue Devils would have needed to finish in the top five to advance. This means that Duke’s spring season has officially come to an end after it battled the difficult Scarlet Course at Ohio State.
“If you look at the result at the end of the week there’s certainly going to be some disappointment but it was a learning experience,” said Green. “We grew up that last day as we were in a you're-in-or-you're-out environment and that’s a good opportunity that many teams didn’t have.”
The tournament was very tight; the programs that tied for sixth place—San Francisco and Clemson—ended up with a score of 866 (+14) and East Tennessee State, which landed the last NCAA Championship qualifying spot, posted 862 (+10).
The Blue Devils didn't go out without a fight. Green's lineup included freshmen Kelly Chinn and Luke Sample, sophomores Ian Siebers and Jimmy Zheng and senior Quinn Riley. While usually led by the talented Siebers—a recent All-ACC selection—Zheng was the leader with a score of 216 (+3). The sophomore and New Zealand native had a particularly good first round with an even-par 71, boosting Duke to a tie for fifth with Ohio State and Georgia Tech after the first day. Zheng would go on to tie for 23rd in the event.
Chinn led the pack in Tuesday’s second round, also posting an even-par 71. The freshman totaled a three-day score of 217 (+4), which gave him an individual rank of 29. Siebers had the same final score as Chinn, but the former was Duke’s leader Wednesday with a third-round 70.
The underclassmen were once again Duke’s drivers for the tournament, showing that Green has players that find comfort in being uncomfortable.
“This was a new experience for a lot of our players,” said Green. “Two are freshmen so everything was new and even though our sophomores were on the traveling team for regionals last year, it was new for them as well because we were in a good position to win this year. For them to be in a very different place with their teammates where they were hunting and having it matter in those final nine holes was really good for us.”
Overall, Duke had a good spring season. After starting off slow with a few poor performances, Green's squad collected great results at the Wake Forest Invitational, the Valspar Collegiate and the Stitch Intercollegiate with respective finishes of second, fourth and first. Unfortunately for the Blue Devils, it didn't translate to postseason play, but Green has a solid foundation for 2022-23 with players that will certainly be ready to take care of business.
“What we had this year was a really good sample size of things that we did well and things that need to get better,” said Green about next year. “We have the physical and the mental talent and we don’t want to take all of that and be in positions to have to have a hot week. We have to figure out the ways so that our B-minus golf, B-plus golf and A-minus golf is still plenty good enough to advance.”
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