Duke women’s golf advances to NCAA Championship after finishing second at windy Cle Elum Regional

With a second place finish at the NCAA Regional in Cle Elum, Wash., the Blue Devils have punched their ticket and are on track for the NCAA Championship. 

Duke jumped out fast among a 12-team field including top-ranked Stanford and ACC competitors Virginia and Virginia Tech. The team’s strong round one provided a foundation for a top-five finish despite challenges on day three. Throughout the competition, teams weathered wet, blustery and chilly conditions as they battled for national championship qualification. 

“I consider [the competition] a success,” head coach Dan Brooks said. “We didn’t get the win, but we got ourselves some California, and we played really well in really windy and cold conditions all three days.” 

The Blue Devils opened competition with a strong score of 6 under, leading the field. An even-par second round dropped Duke below Stanford, but this was enough to hold the Blue Devils’ standing through a +7 round three. 

Although the third day presented Duke with challenges, the team stayed true to a goal of moving on throughout the competition.  

“That [first] day was rainy and windy, and that gave us a little clue as to what we were going to be facing, [but] we didn’t get a whole lot of rain in the following days… We got the [mix of] wind, [some] clouds and cold,” Brooks said. 

The Blue Devils took off on the first day, with their -6 marking team record books as the lowest in the first round at a NCAA Regional. Duke lit up the back nine with 14 birdies to only four bogies. 

Senior Anne Chen led the charge with her individual score of 5 under, an NCAA Regional career low and tying for the second-lowest 18-hole score in Blue Devil history during the competition’s first round. Chen hit six birdies, with four coming from the back nine. 

Although the second round could have seen lower scores, Duke’s even-par showing cemented the team’s position near the top. Following the round, four Blue Devils sat among the field’s top eight individuals: Chen, senior Phoebe Brinker, graduate student Emma McMyler and sophomore Andie Smith. 

“The [team’s] main thing [was that they were] resilient and patient, they would miss a green because the wind came up and they wouldn’t let it bother them,” Brooks said. “Even missing putts because the wind comes up, you just have to accept it and move on. You can’t let it get you.”

Day three presented Duke with the greatest challenge — the team battled heavy winds and low temperatures to a +7 score. The front nine challenged the Blue Devils the most, with 12 bogeys and a triple bogey hit across the team. Nonetheless, Duke held its spot above the third-place finisher Cavaliers. 

“It’s really hard to compare the days because each day had slightly different weather,” Brooks said. “The final day was the windiest consistently. It didn’t necessarily have the strongest gusts, but it was the most consistently windy day, and that had a lot to do with the score being higher.” 

Among highlights from the competition was McMyler’s second round, shooting an important 3-under-par to balance the team’s score on the day. McMyler finished sixth overall in the individual leaderboard. Brinker’s 70-72  during the first two rounds aided the team as well, despite struggles in round three. 

Smith hit +1 through the competition’s 54 holes, having gone even-par on the first two days, and 1 over on the third. She finished seventh, right behind McMyler. 

“Andie really did a great job in having three rounds [that were] very solid, and then Emma, obviously, I think both of them are in the top ten,” Brooks said. “Everybody on the team I think was very focused and very patient.”

In spite of the unique circumstances surrounding each round of a competition, one condition was certain throughout the NCAA Regional — teams expected the weather to play a factor.  

High winds potentially favored the Blue Devils, although challenging to all, as the team drew upon past experiences battling and overcoming gusts to gain advantage over competitors. 

“I would put us in the category of one of the best wind teams [in the country],” Brooks said. “I would not have said that a few months ago, so they’ve really turned the corner on that … I’m glad we were in this regional because we got that much more experience playing in the wind.”

Given the timing, the Blue Devils were also tasked with training for play during open windows around the academic responsibility of final exams.

“They did a tremendous job [preparing] … Our culture is such that we’re always trying to promote the inner drive, the intrinsic motivation, and I think that’s why we’ve done well in [the] postseason over the years,” Brooks said. “I have a lot of trust in them to get done what they need to get done despite the academic load.”

Advancing with Duke are Stanford, Virginia, Arizona State, San Jose State and individual Jasmine Leovao from Long Beach State. Although the Cardinal won the regional competition, the Blue Devils remain confident preparing for championship play. 

“I told the team after it was over just from observing our play and their play, I think [if] we played [Stanford] five times, we’d beat them two or three times,” Brooks said. “I think we can play with Stanford or any other team.” 

With its ticket punched, Duke boards its train to Carlsbad, Calif., for the NCAA Championship beginning May 17. In store for the team over the next week is the same consistent regimen that has guided Duke throughout its season. 

“Essentially, we’ve got a few days, and we’re just going to do our regular practice,” Brooks said. “I didn’t see any areas where there were [patterns] of concern… It’s a great group, they care a lot about each other, and they care about what the team is accomplishing.”

Ryan Kilgallen

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


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