You have to play the best to beat the best, and unfortunately, the Blue Devils came up just short at the prestigious Valspar Collegiate Invitational.
Duke took on the par-71, 6,943-yard Floridian National Golf Club alongside 13 of the nation's top 50 NCAA golf programs and demonstrated that it could hang with the big dogs. After three sunny and humid rounds of golf, the Blue Devils shot a 5-under 847 as they finished tied for ninth alongside Wake Forest. The Tar Heels, the other North Carolina representative, topped the leaderboard with a 27-under which won the tournament by six strokes over third-ranked Texas Tech.
Although Duke finished in the bottom half of the leaderboard, it was not necessarily representative of how the team played as a whole. The squad prevailed over both Georgia Southern and Northwestern who rank 18th and 26th, respectively, and all of the teams that finished above the Blue Devils are ranked higher in the NCAA golf rankings.
During round one of the event, Duke shot a 5-under 279, and three Blue Devils turned in red scorecards at 1-under including freshman William Love and sophomores Kelly Chinn and Luke Sample. In a relatively tame day on the course, Sample stormed back from a 4-over start to birdie five of his last eight holes to finish under par, demonstrating the team’s overall ability to bounce-back after errors on a tough course.
The Blue Devils struggled during round two, shooting a 9-over 293 despite a 4-under round by Love. Putts just could not seem to drop on Monday for Duke, especially for Siebers and Chinn who shot a combined 17 over par.
Despite the early struggles, the Blue Devils put together a solid overall performance in round three at a 9-under 275. Sample paced the squad at 5-under which included a bogey-free front nine and an eagle on the par-4 sixth hole. His 66 was the lowest score of his young Duke golf career. Love also played well, riding a strong start to an under-par round for yet another top-10 finish for the freshman.
Absent an uncharacteristic over-par round on Monday during round two, the Blue Devils hung in with the college golf giants like Arizona State, Florida State and Pepperdine who all finished within single-digits of the Duke team. Additionally, Duke displayed their ability to score low, averaging the third least strokes on par fives and totaling the fourth most birdies out of all teams in the field.
Individually, the Atlanta-born Love led the field in par-4 scoring and tallied the second most birdies over three rounds which is a testament to his strong ball-striking and putting abilities. which was third best in the field.
While most of the squad battled it out with the nation’s top programs in Florida, four Duke golfers traveled to Wilmington, N.C., to participate in the Seahawk Intercollegiate. Held at the Country Club of Landfall’s Dye Course, the Seahawk Intercollegiate hosted prominent teams like Clemson, Wright State and tournament-champion TCU.
Sophomore John Peters shined for the Blue Devils with a 54-hole score of 1-under. The Carlisle, Pa., native’s solid display was highlighted by an eagle hole-out on the 10th during round two. Alongside Peters, junior Daniel Uranga and freshmen Ethan Evans and Daniel Choi also competed in the tournament.
The Blue Devils look to get things going next week at Lonnie Poole Golf Club for the Stitch Intercollegiate, the last tournament before the ACC championships.
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