Duke women's golf's Shepherd headlines in Augusta, Blue Devils are victorious at Wolfpack Match Play

Andie Smith and Megan Furtney walk alongside Erica Shepherd (second from right) during Wolfpack Match Play at Lonnie Poole Golf Club.
Andie Smith and Megan Furtney walk alongside Erica Shepherd (second from right) during Wolfpack Match Play at Lonnie Poole Golf Club.

It has been a hectic week and a half for the Blue Devils.

First, Erica Shepherd, Phoebe Brinker and Anne Chen made their way to Georgia for the fourth-annual Augusta National Women’s Amateur. Shepherd, as the only one of the three to make the cut, played at hallowed Augusta National in the final round Saturday, finishing in a tie for 22nd at +5. 

Then, the entire program reconvened for the Wolfpack Match Play at Lonnie Poole Golf Course in Raleigh, N.C. — its regular season finale. Despite the busy lead-up for its top three, Duke notched victories over N.C. State in the quarterfinals (3-2-0), No. 3 South Carolina in the semifinals (3-2-0) and North Carolina in the finals (3-1-1). It marks the program’s first team trophy since the 2021 ACC championship.

Could it be the spark that Duke needs?

“It's just good to get a win, and to have those individual matches, have everybody contribute,” head coach Dan Brooks said. 

The proverbial MVP was senior Megan Furtney. The Illinois native was the only Blue Devil to win all three matches, with only her 1-up win against Louise Rydquist of South Carolina reaching the final hole. 

“She gets after it, and the spring has been slow to get going, but progressed to where she had three nice wins,” Brooks said.

Furtney now sports a convincing 8-4 record in collegiate match play. The format clearly is her forte, but considering the St. Charles North alum finished first in the program’s internal qualifying for the Raleigh event, she is also playing some of the best golf of her Duke career. 

Elsewhere, freshman Andie Smith went 2-1, with wins over Mia Sandtorv Lussand of South Carolina and Riley Quartermain of North Carolina — and a 1-up loss to Lauren Olivares Leon of N.C. State. It should serve as a confidence booster for Smith, particularly with her first ACC championship a week away, assuming she qualifies for the starting lineup. 

Then, there is the Augusta crew. Brinker and Chen struggled in the Peach State last week, unable to recover from opening rounds of 79 and 77 at Champions Retreat, respectively. But the junior duo contributed to the victory in Raleigh, as Chen went 1-1-1 and Brinker went 1-2. 

As for Shepherd, a taxing stretch came to a close with a 5&4 victory against Kayla Smith of North Carolina in the finals. She went 2-1 for the event, an impressive feat considering she was admittedly exhausted during her first round Monday morning, a 2&1 loss to Vania Simont of N.C. State. Thanks to a nap and coffee before her afternoon match with Katherine Muzi of South Carolina, though, Shepherd “felt like a million bucks.” That, along with five victories in seven holes, led to a 4&2 win against Muzi. 

As admirable her 2-1 record was, the highlight of this marathon stretch for Shepherd was undoubtedly her round at Augusta National last Saturday. Of the 72-player field, only the top 30 and ties make the cut after the first two rounds at Champions Retreat. 

While the whole field gets the chance for a Friday practice round at Augusta, Shepherd wanted a second stroll at the most famous course in America, an experience she says “is as good as it gets.” That put pressure on her first 36 holes. 

Having Brinker and Chen in the field helped, though, and Shepherd advanced with rounds of 74 and 71. 

“That week is very stressful, there's very high stakes,” Shepherd said. “So, just taking those two practice round days and being able to enjoy them with two of my teammates is something that I think definitely helps me out.” 

Entering the final round, Shepherd sat at +1, 14 shots behind 36-hole leader (and eventual champion) Rose Zhang, the No. 1 amateur in the world. And while the former U.S. Girl’s Junior winner had no chance of catching the Stanford sensation, she relished the chance to play Augusta National again — this time, with her brother Ethan caddying.

Starting on the back nine, Shepherd bogeyed the par-4 10th, but birdied the two par-5s on the side, the 13th and 15th. The birdie on 15 was extra special, given it is her favorite hole at Augusta and “such a cool risk-reward hole.” 

Shepherd went on to bogey the 16th and 18th, going out in 37. Three bogeys coming home resulted in a 76 for the day, and the aforementioned tie for 22nd. Reflecting on her fourth ANWA appearance, the 22-year-old was proud to again be part of a unique and already prestigious event.

“Seeing how much it's done for women's golf and seeing all the girls that come out here that are inspired. I think that has been the best part,” Shepherd told GoDuke.

Now, the program turns to the postseason. With ACCs using match play to determine the team champion, and Lonnie Poole being the Blue Devils’ likely NCAA regionals destination, the Wolfpack Match Play was the ideal tuneup. 

“It's awesome to have that knowledge so that when you're preparing for regionals, you know exactly what to prepare for,” Shepherd said. Brooks added that with the layout defined by sleep slopes around the greens, understanding where to leave your approach shots is paramount — which is where experience pays off.

But before it can even think about NCAAs, Duke has to gear up for the conference showcase. The ACC championship starts April 13 at Sedgefield Golf Club in Greensboro, N.C. 

Max Rego profile
Max Rego

Max Rego is a Trinity senior and an associate sports editor for The Chronicle's 118th volume. He was previously sports managing editor for Volume 117.


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