Duke women’s golf falls short at Moon Golf Invitational to open 2024 season

Phoebe Brinker — usually a Duke stalwart — struggled to exert her usual influence at the season opener.
Phoebe Brinker — usually a Duke stalwart — struggled to exert her usual influence at the season opener.

Despite thorough preparation during the winter months, the Blue Devils struggled to weather their first competition of the spring. 

The team traveled to Melbourne, Fla., for three days of competition — with one day off in the middle due to inclement weather — against top programs like LSU, Florida and Wake Forest. Duke’s 13th-place finish marked a tie with Alabama and placed the Blue Devils towards the bottom of the 17-team field, 38 shots behind the first-place Tigers. 

“No matter how hard you try to prepare … you don't know always how you're going to be when you play in your first event,” said head coach Dan Brooks.

Although a rough start Saturday left the team behind, hitting +7 and tying for 12th with Vanderbilt, Duke fell to 17th following Monday’s 24-over second round. Round two’s seven birdies signaled a season low, crushing any thought of advancing beyond the Blue Devils’ round-one position. 

“The first day was not great, but it was recoverable. [However,] yesterday was just really not good at all,” Brooks said. “I’m disappointed by the middle day, but not discouraged because what I saw [in round three] was some solid golf.”

On the final day, the Blue Devils brought it with round-lows for the team coming from graduate student Emma McMyler and freshman Katie Li, who each shot 3-under. McMyler hit three birdies and 15 pars across the 18 holes, and Li achieved five birdies which were offset by two bogeys. Duke had the third-lowest round-three score across the field — its best of the weekend, at -7 — behind only LSU and Vanderbilt, serving to regain some distance lost the day prior.

Brooks emphasized the team’s day-three success.

“The effort was there, everybody played hard, and we got a lot of birdies,” he said. “My kudos to the whole team for some pretty good golf today.”

Junior Rylie Heflin opened up the invitational for the Blue Devils with an even-par first round, firing off three birdies in her first nine holes. Senior Anne Chen also pitched in, with one birdie taking her to -1 across the first nine holes and finishing the round at 1-over. 

In round two, McMyler took over leading the team, shooting four straight pars and a birdie to even out an opening bogey. She ended the round 4-over, just two strokes below Chen and Li.  

Brooks plans to incorporate shortcomings from the competition into future practices to best prepare the team for what is to come. One area he highlighted was playing in the wind and controlling the ball’s flight path.

“We need to work on keeping the ball a little lower, so the wind doesn’t throw our ball around quite so much,” Brooks said. 

The rest of the field offered a mixed bag. ACC rival Florida State finished in eighth place at 13-over, while Virginia Tech fell to the bottom of competition with +34. Wake Forest placed 12th, shooting only four below the Blue Devils. 

While the team has work to do, Brooks remains encouraged. 

“We’ve got a lot of golf left this spring, and [when] you look for … the positives, we had a lot of positives today, and [looking for] the negatives, we will go to work on our negatives,” he said.

After a week off, Duke will return to competition in Hilton Head, S.C. for the Darius Rucker Intercollegiate.   

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