There’s just something about that Caribbean climate and humidity, as Johnny Depp says.
After an impressive showing at the Dorado Beach Collegiate in Dorado, Puerto Rico, Sunday through Tuesday, head coach Jamie Green and the Blue Devils would likely say the same. Duke placed second at TPC Dorado Beach, tallying a 36-under 828 strokes and trailed behind tournament-champion Cincinnati by just eight strokes. A tournament-leading 76 birdies helped Duke to its fourth-lowest score in program history and freshman William Love won the tournament as an individual. Among the teams that Duke prevailed over are number 12 ranked Virginia and number two ranked Auburn, a testament to the Blue Devils’ talent at the national level.
“We love anytime there’s that many birdie opportunities and players are capitalizing on them,” said Green. “We try not to scoreboard watch too much but we certainly played well enough to know that our preparation was worthwhile.”
Individually, Duke put up a strong tournament across the board with no player finishing below 31st. Freshman Ethan Evans recorded three sub-70 rounds and tallied 17 birdies and two eagles en route to a fourth place finish. His 12-under marks the fourth lowest score by a Duke men’s golf freshman and he continues his streak of under-par rounds that dates back to the White Sands Bahamas Invitational in late October.
Junior Ian Siebers once again displayed why he leads this Blue Devil squad. Not only did Siebers place third overall but he also led the field in both par-3 and par-4 scoring, demonstrating his consistently dominant approach and short game. At 14-under, Siebers’ 202 strokes was not only his personal best this year, but also the sixth-lowest in program history.
“When you have depth, that can’t be anything but good for the program,” Green said. “If nothing else, having the strength and really good play of some freshman really helps us know that when we go to a tournament we'll have five guys that can go and more.”
Strong performances by freshman Daniel Choi, junior Jimmy Zheng and sophomores Luke Sample and Kelly Chinn all contributed under-par rounds, but it was the player whose score did not count towards the team score that really showed out in Puerto Rico. Love shot 17-under and won the tournament after two stellar rounds on days two and three. The Atlanta native’s 9-under round two was the best round to par for a freshman in Duke men’s golf history.
“Honestly I wish I could have watched more of it,” Green said in regards to Love’s second round. “We knew he was having a great day, and it tells you that he can play at a very very high level at any level of golf. It certainly helps the whole team because sometimes you don’t have a concept of what your ceiling is until someone goes really low.”
Although they are not returning to Durham with the victory, Green’s squad can take away several positives from their display in the Caribbean. The youthful Duke team has the talent to compete with the nation’s top golf programs. The team had not seen the course until traveling down to the island, yet played as if it was their home course. The team stayed disciplined, avoiding the trouble on the left side of the course and birdied the more straightforward holes. With such low scores across the board, the players face pressure to perform and Green faces tough decisions with regards to the top five. Still, as always, there are aspects that need improvement. In a week’s time, the Blue Devils will hope to carry this momentum to Pinehurst No. 2 at the Wake Forest Invitational.
“I don’t want to not applaud our own players, but Cincinnati showed an impressive level of composure,” Green said. “The ability to continue to play with composure and gather yourself when things don’t go well are things that we can continue to recognize we have control over and get better.”
In a week’s time, the Blue Devils will hope to carry this momentum to Pinehurst No. 2 at the Wake Forest Invitational.
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