What goes around comes around—even if it takes a week to come back.
Duke re-established dominance on the golf course over the weekend at the White Sands Invitational in Paradise Island, Bahamas,. The Blue Devils matched a program record as they finished in first place at 41-under-par, also a monumental difference from last week’s 11th place at the Golf Club of Georgia Collegiate. Sophomore Luke Sample took solo second place with his 12-under-par performance.
“There is nowhere to go but down unless you keep going up,” head coach Jamie Green said. “The term is ‘people that hate to lose.’ But I love the term more, 'people that love to win.’ We've got guys that have a little bit of both.”
Duke had a significant turnaround this tournament with all seven players shooting under par. With their team-wide efficiency, the Blue Devils led the field with 68 birdies. While the weekend was a huge success for Duke, it was a career highlight for Sample, who reached the podium for the first time in his career. He fell short of the individual medal after a playoff hole against Southern Mississippi's Ryan Dupuy.
“I really made an effort to just keep the ball in play. Leaving myself in the best possible place to get up and down for par on some difficult holes, was the strategy and I thought I executed it really well,” Sample said.
The New York native took a risk by changing his style during the tournament: carrying two putters instead of one. Yet, it was that risk-taking that put him up on the leaderboard changing the tide of his Duke career.
The personal bests did not stop there. Junior Jimmy Zheng tied for sixth place at 9-under, leaving the Bahamas with his first top-10 finish of the season. Sophomore Kelly Chinn finished in 10th (-7) while freshmen William Love (-5) and Ethan Evans (-4) finished under par in each of the three rounds for the first time in their careers.
“At the moment we have a team that's very balanced… because they each have unique skills on the golf course and their scoring habits right now are very comparable,” Green said.
While the weekend victory marks the end of the fall season for the Blue Devils, they will not have to say goodbye to the sunshine as the first conference tournament takes Duke to the Dorado Beach Collegiate in Puerto Rico from Feb. 26-28.
“It's still a golf course. It's still competition. It still shows it can show our players what they're capable of doing, regardless of what the other teams are,” coach Jamie Green said, reflecting on the ups and downs of the season.
While unfamiliar with the Bahamian course, the Blue Devils made clear that they are up for a challenge and ultimately can win in the face of adversity. As the next tournament is four months away one thing is for certain according to Sample:
“This tournament really sets the standard for where we can be and I think that we're all really excited to get to work and see what can happen in the spring.”
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