Duke women’s golf ends postseason run in stroke play, places 14th at NCAA Championship

Phoebe Brinker recorded a top-10 finish at the NCAA Championships this week.
Phoebe Brinker recorded a top-10 finish at the NCAA Championships this week.

After many ups and downs, Duke’s postseason run has reached the final stop of the season: a 14th-place finish at the NCAA Championship in Carlsbad, Calif. 

The Blue Devils’ run ended earlier than anticipated, as the team opened competition with solid play but struggled to maintain low scores in progressive rounds. Duke finished the first three days in the top 15 and accordingly advanced to compete in a fourth round of stroke play. However, match play slipped out of reach as the Blue Devils failed to finish in the top eight after the additional day of competition. 

“We didn’t get the job done, but it wasn’t because people were immature or anything like that,” said head coach Dan Brooks. “They were fighting hard, we just didn’t quite get the putts to fall.”

The final two rounds of competition proved the most challenging for Duke — the Blue Devils’ +16 on day three was the highest 18-hole score from any of the top 15 teams over the first three rounds of play. While Duke still qualified for day four, entering the round at 11th place, the team sank three places after shooting 13-over. 

“I really was hopeful that this team could get to match play,” Brooks said. “We have a lot of depth on this team, and I think that would’ve shown up.”

Round three marked the first time since February that all golfers were held to shooting above par. In both the second and fourth rounds, only one golfer — sophomore Andie Smith in round two and senior Phoebe Brinker in round four — was able to prevent the all-over occurrence from happening multiple times at the championship. 

“[I’m] disappointed for our three players who graduated, particularly, I was hoping that they would get to play in match play,” Brooks said.

Although the Blue Devils left the Omni La Costa North Course with a dissatisfying finish, the team highlighted its strength at several moments. Duke finished the first day tied for sixth, having shot 2-under. Along with round two’s +5 score, the opening couple of days provided the Blue Devils with a cushion that would help them, entering the third round, to coast into the top 15 and continue playing for another day.  

“The attitudes, the effort, all of that couldn’t have been better,” Brooks said. “They were fighting hard … they were staying positive. That’s what you have to do in golf.” 

In round one, Brinker led the charge for Duke, shooting 3-under. Graduate student Emma McMyler also helped to pull the team ahead of the field with her -1 score. 

Brinker’s solid first round, combined with 73-74-72 scores in subsequent rounds of play, led her to an individual top-10 finish at the competition and All-America honors. She became the 10th golfer in program history to achieve multiple top-10 finishes at the NCAA Championship, with her first in 2021. 

“I’m really glad that Phoebe … had a really good final tournament,” Brooks said. “I was glad she was able to shoot even [on] the last day.”  

Brooks also noted the challenging nature of the course, both in its design and setup. 

“This course was set up well. It was redesigned recently, with the college players in mind … and about a year ago, they had a bunch of coaches come in with the architect, and they gave input,” he said. 

Stanford and LSU, tied for first at the end of stroke play, both failed to card rounds beneath -3. They finished the four days scoring 2-over. ACC rival Clemson achieved the lowest 18-hole score across the competition field, 8-under, but similarly finished above par after struggling in other rounds.

“The way scoring is happening now, [if] a championship [puts] the winning team around par, the golf course has been set up really well,” Brooks said. “I like that they’re not 20 or 30 under, and they’re not 20 or 30 over, they’re right around par.”

Of the six ACC teams in appearance at the Championship, only Clemson advanced to match play. Wake Forest and Florida State barely missed the cutoff, placing 9th and tying for 11th, respectively. North Carolina finished the third round tied for 26th, and Virginia placed 28th. 

One improvement from the season that followed the team to Carlsbad was the Blue Devils’ ability to shoot in the wind. 

“We did a great job [this season] of stepping up to the wind,” Brooks said. “We showed that in Cle Elum, and if you weren’t pretty good at playing in the wind … this [golf course] would have torn [you] apart.” 

Brinker and McMyler graduated May 12 alongside senior Anne Chen. Brooks expressed gratitude for the contributions of Brinker and Chen over the past four years and McMyler this past season.

“The three of them have had a great, positive effect on the team, each with their own different, unique personalities,” Brooks said. “With their leadership, it’s been a lot of fun.”

Next fall, Duke plans to bring a whole new game. After a couple months away, responsibility will fall on Smith, junior Rylie Heflin and freshman Katie Li to teach the newcomers about the ways of the program. Part of next year’s preparation will involve reflecting on this year’s championship experience. 

“There’s a lot of great [moments from the competition] … [We] got into the top 15,” Brooks said. “[We’re] in the top half of the [30] best teams in the country, so a lot of good stuff happened… Hopefully that’ll just plant the seed, and it will be filed in their minds between now and the next national championship out [in Carlsbad].” 

Ryan Kilgallen

Ryan Kilgallen is a Trinity sophomore and an associate news editor for the news department.


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