Junior Anne Chen leads Duke women's golf to 4th-place finish at Windy City Collegiate Classic

<p>Junior Anne Chen scored a 69 in the final round, marking just her fifth career round in the 60s.&nbsp;</p>

Junior Anne Chen scored a 69 in the final round, marking just her fifth career round in the 60s. 

Sports are most often played with the intent of winning, but that isn’t always the case. For Duke women’s golf’s fall season, the team is, first and foremost, looking to improve so that the winning can happen when it counts—when they are in season. 

Duke traveled to Chicago Monday and Tuesday for the Windy City Collegiate Classic, a two-day tournament held at Exmoor Country Club in Highland Park, Ill. The team, which typically practices and plays on Bermuda grass courses, played a difficult green—one that’s fast with high roughs, as head coach Dan Brooks described it. 

But despite the differences, the No. 10 Blue Devils got more comfortable with the conditions as the tournament went on, and learned to adapt incrementally through three rounds of 18. Though Brooks believes the group would’ve had a higher finish if there were more time to adjust to the course, Duke still concluded its trip to the Windy City with a tie for fourth place, its best finish of the six times the team has competed in the tournament.

“You're always trying to become the best golfer you can become, and that includes physical, mental and emotional,” Brooks told The Chronicle Wednesday morning. “So it's all a process, and fall obviously is a good distance away from postseason, since that's in late May, for us. We're very much in process and just trying to see how people can improve individually.”

In just two days of competition, Duke’s six competitors, five of which competed as a team and one as an individual, each saw vast improvements. Junior Anne Chen, who concluded her first round at 77 with just one birdie, saw those numbers change in the second round, in which she swung for four birdies in her first 10 holes. She ended at even par for the round, placing her in 19th place going into the final round. 

But the Sugar Land, Texas, native wasn’t content there. In the third round, she only suffered one bogey and got every other hole on or under par, including four birdies, to finish the final 18 holes three under par at 69. The round was Chen’s fifth career round in the 60s, and her 218 for the tournament placed her at a tie for fourth place.

“You're just being surprised right and left—by a green that's faster than you expected, or one that's slower than expected. And by the time she [Chen] got to the final round, she knew a little more and had also maybe accepted the fact that it was a tough golf course where it looks like you can get birdies, but they're just not that easy to get,” Brooks said of Chen’s improvement throughout the tournament.

Though Chen led the team, the rest of the players from Duke also fared well. In the first round, junior Phoebe Brinker finished on par and with four birdies. Brinker went on to get three more birdies the next day to finish tied for 31st. Meanwhile, sophomore Rylie Heflin had a strong first day performance, finishing round one two over par with four birdies. She then added two more in the second round, placing her at 150 through 36 holes. In the final round, Heflin tallied a 76 to finish the tournament with a 226, which saw her tied for 35th with teammate Erica Shepherd, a senior.

Shepherd, who began the first day with rounds of 77 and 75, started each round strong. She parred the first eight holes in the back nine of the first round and was even par across the back nine of round two. She had her best performance on the second day, scoring a 74 after parring her first seven and final two holes, as well as a birdie and several bogeys.

Freshman Andie Smith improved from eight over par in the first round to just 2-over in round two. Though her round one performance was not without its struggles, Smith swung an eagle on the first hole, the only player to do so in the round. In the third round, Smith found a middle ground at 77.

Senior Megan Furtney competed as an individual and finished with a 240, placing her 75th.

The Blue Devils don’t get a long break before their next tournament; they fly to Juno Beach, Fla., Oct. 10-12 for the Jackson T. Stephens Cup.


Share and discuss “Junior Anne Chen leads Duke women's golf to 4th-place finish at Windy City Collegiate Classic” on social media.