ATHENS, Ga. – One of the greatest golfers in Duke history closed her career in remarkable fashion on Friday at the NCAA Championship as senior Lindy Duncan played the final three holes at four-under-par to finish second overall, while the Duke squad placed second on the 6,372-yard, par 72 University of Georgia Golf Course in Athens, Ga.
The second place finish for Duke marks the second time in school history the Blue Devils have finished second, including their 13th overall top five finish in the NCAA Championship. Duke turned in rounds of 286, 289, 287 and 292 for a school-record 72-hole total of 1,154. The second place finish was the highest Duke has placed in the NCAAs since the Blue Devils won their fifth NCAA Championship in 2007.
Duke has come a long way over the last three years as the Blue Devils did not advance to the NCAA Championship in 2011 and placed 15th a year ago, before turning in a second place ledger in 2013.
Southern California claimed the title with a NCAA Championship record four-day total of 1,133, while Duke (1154), Purdue (1173), UCLA (1174), Arizona State (1181), Auburn (1183), Alabama (1189), Arizona (1190), Oklahoma (1191), Michigan State (1191) and Tulane (1191).
“We played as well as they (USC) did for three of the days,” said Duke head coach Dan Brooks. “They just had one day that was unbelievable. It was the lowest round ever shot in an NCAA Championship. For a team that solid to have a magical day like that, it is going to be really hard to catch them. They are a very, very solid team. My hats off to them.”
Duncan closed her outstanding collegiate career with a two-under-par, 70, on her way to finishing with a four-under-par, 284, over the four days. She became just the second Blue Devil to finish in the top 10 of three straight NCAA Championships (Amanda Blumenherst).
“It is great finishing in second place in the national championship, after our team had been struggling a little bit in the last few years [at the NCAAs],” said Duncan. “This was the first time I’ve been on a team that was close to contention [at NCAAs]. It’s great to get a trophy.”
On Friday, Duncan once again had a slow start with bogeys on No. 2 and No. 5 and No. 11 to fall to three-over-par on the day. All week she was so close on her putts and down the stretch she finally got some to drop as she birdied No. 13, No. 16 and No. 17 to move to even par. On the 159-yard-par three 13th, she sank a four-foot birdie, hit her seven-iron from 150 yards to within a foot on the 16th and drained a 14-footer for birdie on No. 17.
Duncan came to the 18th hole in a tie for second place and she hit a three-wood from 220 yards away to 15 feet for a chance for eagle. A product of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., Duncan went on to drain the putt for her first eagle of the season and fell to her knees. She also became the second Blue Devil to notch four straight rounds of even or under par at the NCAA Championship (Virada Nirapathpongporn in 2002 and 2004). On the day, Duncan hit a team-high 16 greens, 11 fairways and had 30 putts.
“She eagles her last hole in college golf,” commented Brooks on Duncan. “That was just really special. She has been putting very, very well and they haven’t been falling in. It has been really hard on her. On the backside, the putts started to fall. She got two birdies and an eagle coming in. I was so happy she was rewarded for her patience at the end of her college career.”
Claiming the individual title was freshman Annie Park of Southern California with a four-day total of 278.
Turning in her best finish of the season was freshman Celine Boutier with rounds of 69, 73, 71 and 74 for a total of 287. A native of Montrouge, France, Boutier totaled the third-highest finish at the NCAA Championship by a Duke freshman (Candy Hannemann finished second in 1999 and Jennie Lee placed second in 2006).
“It was my first nationals, I really enjoyed it,” commented Boutier. “I love the course. It was in really great shape. I really enjoyed playing on it. My game was really good, my ball-striking was good, and I would say the only thing was my putting, it wasn’t that great.”
Boutier kicked off her day with a bogey on the first hole as she missed the green on the approach and could not get it up-and-down. She had another bogey on the third hole before draining two straight birdies on No. 8 and No. 9 to return even par. Boutier was on the par five 12th in two and had an eagle putt before finishing with her third birdie of the day to get to one-under-par and in second place. She closed with a bogey on No. 13 as she hit her tee shot in the bunker and a double-bogey on No. 16 to finish with a 74.
Junior Laetitia Beck had an up-and-down final round, which featured one bogey, three birdies, three double-bogeys and 11 pars on her way to finishing with a 76. Overall, she placed tied for 17th, which is a career-best finish at the NCAA Championship and her eighth top 20 finish of the year. She hit 12 greens, eight fairways and had 31 putts on the afternoon.
Coming off a day where she struggled with an 80 on Thursday, junior Alejandra Cangrejo carded an even-par, 72, to finish her season. Overall, she tied for 58th with a 72-hole total of 302. On Friday, she had a bogey on No. 2 and a bogey on No. 11 before sinking her first birdie of the day on the 511-yard, par five 12th hole. Cangrejo, who is from Bogota, Colombia, found the water on her tee shot on the par three 13th and finished with a double-bogey to fall to three-over-par on the day.
Cangrejo regrouped and finished strong with a 25-foot birdie putt on No. 14, 15-foot birdie on the 15th and a 10-footer for birdie on No. 17 to get back to even par. On No. 18, she had her birdie putt lip-out as she finished with a 72. Cangrejo hit 12 fairways, 11 greens and had 29 putts on the day.
Playing in her final collegiate round on Friday senior Courtney Ellenbogen struggled on her way to finishing with an 81. A product of Blacksburg, Va., Ellenbogen finished tied for 50th overall with a 301 as she hit 11 fairways, 11 greens and had 36 putts on the afternoon.
“I had a lot of fun,” commented Brooks on the week in Georgia. “Number one, it was a great experience and was a lot of fun. I had a team that played with a lot of heart. They were good at staying patient, getting over shots and moving on to the next one. When you watch a team do that for four days, it’s a lot of fun.”
Duke will lose three seniors in 2012-13 – Duncan, Ellenbogen and Stacey Kim – but will return five letterwinners and welcome one of the top recruiting classes in the nation for next season.
Notes: • Duke has won five NCAA Championships over the years – 1999, 2002, 2005, 2006 and 2007. • The Blue Devils have 13 top-five finishes in the NCAA Championship. • Lindy Duncan now owns a school-record eight under-par rounds in the NCAA Championship. She broke Amanda Blumenherst’s mark of five. • Lindy Duncan closed her career with 21 top five finishes (T2nd), 32 top 10 finishes (2nd), 39 top 20 finishes (2nd), 72 even or under par rounds (2nd), 27 tournaments as Duke’s top scorer (3rd), 126 rounds played (T6th) and 23 rounds in the 60s (2nd). • Duke’s other second place finish in the NCAA Championship was 2001 at Howey-in-the-Hills, Fla. • Other runner-up finishers at the NCAA Championships for Duke include Jennie Lee (2006), Candy Hannemann (1999) and Jean Bartholomew (1988).