Duke women’s golf places fifth at ACC Championship, narrowly misses semifinal cutoff

Sophomore Andie Smith was the standout golfer among an otherwise disappointing showing from Duke.
Sophomore Andie Smith was the standout golfer among an otherwise disappointing showing from Duke.

After falling behind early in stroke play, Duke found itself in a hole that the team couldn’t get out of — and one that would stop its tournament run before the semifinals. 

The fifth-place Blue Devils left the ACC Championship, hosted in Wilmington, N.C., over the weekend, just one stroke behind North Carolina, the fourth-place finisher and match play qualifier with the highest score. Other teams that proceeded to match play included tournament winner Wake Forest, runner-up Clemson and third-place Virginia. 

While Duke had strong performances in round 3, such showings were insufficient and came just too late in the competition.     

“We got ourselves [into] a little bit of a hole early, and then we just played a really good [last] day but didn’t quite get it done,” said head coach Dan Brooks. 

Entering the championship, the No. 2-seeded Blue Devils carried momentum following recent first- and second-place finishes against top national competitors. However, in-line with other showings from the season, the team struggled with consistency and failed to replicate previous successes across rounds 1 and 2.

The first day left Duke in ninth place with a score of +6. Despite finishing the round towards the bottom of the 12-team field, the Blue Devils still had the ability to close the gap between the team and a final four finish. Adding +3 on day two only helped Duke to advance one place, and suddenly the team had only 18 holes to catch the then-fourth-place and 1-under Tar Heels. 

“I think learning the greens [was] challenging," Brooks said. "There was a lot of slope and quite a bit of green."

While the Blue Devils ultimately did learn the course — and the team’s focused composure brought them within one stroke of potential advancement — Duke had simply fallen too deep and left too much up to one day’s worth of play.  

Regardless of the early learning curve faced by the Blue Devils, the ACC tournament was not without highlights. Duke shot -7 in its final round to leap ahead of Virginia Tech, Florida State, N.C. State, and nearly its Tobacco Road rival. 

“That last round was fantastic,” Brooks said. “Everybody knew what was on the line … when you go into a day knowing that you’re 10 shots back, you know exactly what you have to do.” 

Among highlights, sophomore Andie Smith tried her best to head up the Blue Devils’ return. After leading Duke with -1 in the second round, Smith’s steady putting helped her score a much-needed 3-under on round 3.  

“I thought Andie was the most [poised] in this tournament," Brooks said. "She owned her game and did that throughout the tournament, and I was very impressed." 

Freshman Katie Li also scored low towards stroke play’s end: Her 5-under third round was the product of six birdies and one bogey. The score marks her 13th round at par or below, tying her for ninth all-time among Duke freshmen.  

The Blue Devils’ performance parallels a milder form of results from the team’s spring opener, where again, a couple rounds of challenging play were followed by an exceptional showing of Duke golf. A clear difference, though, is that one left the team near the bottom of competition, while the other came just short of a top finish. In each, the Blue Devils worked to maintain composure and demonstrate their grit, both themes from across the season.     

“Honestly, [Duke’s finish] was just because scoring wise, we got into a deeper hole, [but] I mean, that last round was fantastic … we really kept it together,” Brooks said. 

Given the tournament’s highs and lows, Duke plans to stay the course. In advance of future competition, the Blue Devils will need to improve across all areas of play, as they have done all season. The responsibility will fall on individual members to fit practice into their final exam schedules, with the end of the academic year looming.

“This is where I really depend on the team to get after it on their own,” Brooks said. “I know I can count on this team to squeeze some good, solid time in on their games [and practice] whenever they can.” 

Duke will tune in Wednesday for the NCAA selection show, with the regional championship May 6-8 and the national championship taking place in Carlsbad, Calif., from May 17-22. 

“We just need continued work on what we’ve already been doing. I think we’re a really solid team,” Brooks said. “The way [the team] kept themselves settled down in that last round makes me feel confident about the future for us this season.”


Ryan Kilgallen

Ryan Kilgallen is a Trinity first-year and an associate news editor for the news department.

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