Duke women's golf closes regular season with second-place finish at Old Barnwell Match Play

Emma McMyler was the standout Blue Devil at The Old Barnwell Match Play.
Emma McMyler was the standout Blue Devil at The Old Barnwell Match Play.

For the Blue Devils, slow and steady really does win — or at least tie — races. 

Duke came in second at the Old Barnwell Match Play in Aiken, S.C., this week after defeating Florida State and Mississippi State and tying South Carolina over three rounds of match play. The Gamecocks claimed the top spot in a tiebreaker based on total holes won over the round against the Blue Devils. 

“I really have enjoyed seeing the team help each other and support each other, and it really showed up on this course,” said head coach Dan Brooks. “You just have to have that if you’re going to beat people, you have got to put your minds together and tackle the golf course.” 

Duke exhibited growth — bringing a Tallahassee, Fla., trend with the team to Aiken — as it overcame once-debilitating obstacles. Blustery conditions across both days of competition, paired with a new course entirely unknown to the Blue Devils, could have challenged the team a few months ago. However, consistent training and focus on day-by-day improvement has guided Duke towards better ball control and overall play. 

“Three weeks ago, I said we need to be better in the wind. Well, we just played three days in the wind, and we tied … but we basically won [the competition], playing against really good teams on a hard, windy golf course,” Brooks said. “Frankly, I don’t know [if] we would have done that three or four weeks ago.”

Along similar lines, a strength for the Blue Devils entering the competition was their adaptability. 

“The wind is blowing hard all three rounds, and the greens are really firm because it’s a new golf course, so that led to a lot of learning … I was very impressed by the team’s ability to figure [out where to best land the ball],” Brooks said. 

In addition to playing well overall, Duke had many individual highlights. 

Graduate student Emma McMyler dominated each round of competition, taking down nationally ranked opponents from Florida State, Mississippi State and South Carolina, including the World Amateur Golf Rankings’ No. 2, No. 30 and No. 126 players. She sealed round one for Duke, finishing 2&1 against the Seminoles’ Charlotte Heath, and in her third round, McMyler tied the score for the Blue Devils with a 3&1 finish against the Gamecocks’ Vairana Heck. 

“[The competition] went pretty well,” McMyler said. “I played pretty well throughout the event and was really steady.”

Senior Anne Chen also put up strong performances at the competition. She opened day one with a pair of wins against Florida State and Mississippi State, securing the first victory for Duke against each opponent. Like Chen, senior Phoebe Brinker had wins in rounds one and two as well, scoring 4&3 and 1UP respectively. 

Sophomore Andie Smith and freshman Katie Li each won their second round against Mississippi State, with Smith finishing 1UP and Li scoring 4&3. Smith worked her way back in round three after an early 3UP surge from her opponent, winning the 18th hole to tie the match.    

Junior Rylie Heflin played exhibition matches against the Seminoles’ Katherine Cook and the Bulldogs’ Sam Whateley. She tied Cook in her first round before defeating Whateley in round two. 

“Everybody stepped up at some point in this tournament,” Brooks said. 

The Old Barnwell Match Play marked Duke’s only non-stroke play competition of the season so far. In this format, golfers compete head-to-head on each hole, with the number of holes won determining the outcome of a player’s match. 

“For the most part, match play is the same thing as stroke play … [the kinds of decision making] are very similar,” Brooks said. 

Entering the postseason, the Blue Devils’ goals remain unchanged. The same training regimen and day-by-day improvement that carried the team through the season will also prepare Duke for upcoming championship competition. 

“Everybody is just working on their general games,” Brooks said. “We always need to get better in every department, but we’re at a place where if we just keep doing that, try to be a little better tomorrow than we are today, nothing jumps out.”

The Blue Devils’ next showing as a team will be in Wilmington, N.C., at the April 18-21 ACC Championship. Prior to then, though, McMyler and Brinker will head to the Augusta National Women’s Amateur in Augusta, Ga. 

“We have a tradition of playing our best toward the end of the season, and I feel like we’re headed that way,” Brooks said. 

Ryan Kilgallen

Ryan Kilgallen is a Trinity first-year and a staff reporter for the news department.


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