BRADENTON, FLA - The Duke men's golf team battled throughout the day and pushed two matches into extra holes before falling to top-seed Arkansas, 3-1-1, in the title match of the Callaway Collegiate Match Play Championship at the Concession Golf Club in Bradenton, Fla. Duke, the 2011 Callaway Collegiate Match Play champions, is now 9-2 in match play over the last two seasons.
"Everyone on the team contributed a lot to us getting to that championship match and having a chance to win it," said head coach Jamie Green. "They all played their part, so it might have been a different day for a different guy on a different stretch of holes, but they all played well to put us where we were."
Junior Julian Suri rebounded from his first career match play loss on Monday to post a 5 & 3 win over Ethan Tracy and improve to 9-1-1 in his career in match play. The St. Augustine, Fla., native never trailed in his match and lost just two holes en route to the win. Suri opened par-par-birdie to win the first three holes. After giving a hole back with a bogey on the par 3 fourth hole, he birdied No. 5 (par 5) and No. 8 (par 4) to go 4-up. Tracy won the first hole after the turn and the two players matched shots over the next three holes. Suri put the match away with a par on No. 14 and a birdie on No. 15 for the victory.
Sophomore Austin Cody dropped a 3 & 1 decision to Austin Cook. The North Charleston, S.C., native won the opening hole of the day (No. 2) but Cook countered with wins on No. 3, No. 5, No. 6 and No. 8 to seize control of the match. Cook extended his lead to 4-up on No. 15 and had the match at dormie with four holes remaining. Cody recovered to win No. 16 with a par and added a birdie on No. 17 to get to 2-down with two hole remaining. Cook sealed the match with a birdie on the par 4 18th hole. Cody is now 8-2-1 in his career in match play, including a 6-1-1 record in the Callaway Collegiate Match Play Championship.
Brinson Paolini, a junior from Virginia Beach, Va., saw his seven-match win streak at Callaway Collegiate Match Play Championship come to an end with a 4 & 3 loss to Sebastian Cappelen. Paolini grabbed an early lead with a birdie on the par 4 second hole, but Cappelen countered with a birdie on No. 3 and claimed wins on No. 5 and No. 6 to go 2-up. Paolini grabbed wins on No. 7 and No. 8 to make the turn at all-square. Cappelen caught fire on the back nine with a par win on No. 10, an eagle on No. 12 and birdies on No. 14 and No. 15 to seal the victory.
Gornik dropped the first three holes (No. 4-6) in his match to fall behind early in the day to Thomas Sorensen. He recovered to win No. 7 and No. 9 to trim the deficit. Sorensen moved back to 2-up with a par on No. 12, but Gornik countered with a win on No. 14. The two players matches shots over the next four holes before Gornik seized a 1-up lead with one hole remaining after par wins on No. 1 and No. 2. Sorensen recovered with a birdie on No. 3 (par 5) to square the match and send it into extra holes. The match ended at all-square after Arkansas secured the win on the 21st hole of the Merkulov-Kolton Crawford match.
Merkulov never trailed until the 21st hole of the match and held a 2-up edge after nine holes of play (began on No. 3). Crawford cut the deficit in half on No. 12 and added a birdie on No. 13, but Merkulov eagled the 545-yard, par 5 to regain a two hole advantage. Crawford claimed the next two holes to square the match, before the Merkulov retook the lead with a par on No. 16. After a Crawford birdie on the par 5 17th hole evened the match the two players matched shots over the next five holes. On the 21st hole of the match, Crawford carded a birdie to seal the championship for Arkansas.
Duke returns to action at the Irish Creek Collegiate (March 31 - April 1). The Blue Devils claimed the team championship at the event last season. Merkulov, Paolini, Suri and Spencer Anderson all finished in the top 10 at the event a year ago.