TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – With one day remaining at the NCAA East Regional, the top-seeded and third-ranked Duke women’s golf team sits in second place overall and six shots off the lead at the 6,257-yard, par 72 SouthWood Golf Club in Tallahassee, Fla.
Vanderbilt carded a one-over-par, 289, Friday and holds a six-stroke lead with a 10-over-par, 566. The Blue Devils are second with a 572, after totaling rounds of 284 Thursday and even-par, 288, in the second round.
“I just told the team that I was really proud of them,” said Duke head coach Dan Brooks. “The wind kicked up today and I really think it needed to kick up on this golf course. For this to be a regional championship, I think we needed it to be more difficult. You saw South Carolina, who is a very good team, played better today. We played better relative to the field today. Hopefully tomorrow will be tough conditions again and that is going to help us determine the eight best teams to go to the national championship.”
South Carolina shot the low round of the day, 283, to move into a tie for third along with Tulane at 574, while Virginia (575), Stanford (577), NC State (580), Campbell (581), Florida State (585) and Pepperdine (587) rounded out the top 10. The top eight teams following Saturday’s final round advance to the NCAA Championship.
The second round featured tougher conditions as the wind picked up and more challenging pin positions.
On the individual leaderboard, the Blue Devils feature two out of the top three with freshman Sandy Choi and sophomore Celine Boutier at four-under-par (140). The Duke duo is only one shot behind Mariah Stackhouse of Stanford, who holds a one shot lead at 5-under-par (139).
Choi, who is out of San Diego, Calif., carded a career-best four-under-par, 68, in the second round to move from tied 28th to tied second. The round of 68 was the low round of the day, after the rookie carded four birdies over her final nine holes and a total of five on the day. Duke started the day on hole 10 and Choi posted her first birdie on the par five. She went on to make eight straight pars, including her second straight sand save on the 163-yard, par three 17th, before opening the final nine with back-to-back birdies on No. 1 and No. 2.
“My putting was really good and then my short game was good,” said Choi about her round of 68. “My shots were a little off but I think my putting saved most of my shots. I don’t think I missed any fairways, I had 26 putts which was really good and I didn’t miss any up-and-downs.”
She netted a birdie on No. 4, had a three-putt bogey on the fifth hole and totaled three consecutive pars. Choi had her final birdie of the day on the eighth and got up-and-down for the fifth time on No. 9 to close with her first collegiate round in the 60s. She hit 13 fairways, 12 greens and had 26 putts on the day.
“Just very, very solid golf,” commented Brooks on the play of Choi. “I actually didn’t watch a lot of her round today, but I had my scouts out there watching and they gave me her stats. They said it was just boring golf and that is really what I have been preaching this whole tournament. She hit 12 greens, 14 fairways and had 26 putts. She played the percentages and shot four under in the process.”
Continuing to hover around the top of the leaderboard was Boutier, who is riding a three-tournament win streak with 18 holes remaining at the regional. She started her round by getting on the 498-yard, par five 10th hole in two, but three-putted for par. On the 11th hole, Boutier three-putted once again for bogey, but notched her first of five birdies on No. 12 to remain even par. After hitting her drive in the hazard, she suffered a double-bogey on the 13th, but came back to play her final 14 holes at one-under-par, including a bogey for the second straight day on her final hole to finish with a one-over-par, 73.
Senior Laetitia Beck turned in a very solid round with 14 pars, two birdies and two bogeys Friday and will enter the final day tied 37th with a 147. On her opening nine holes, Beck had eight pars and a bogey on No. 17. The Caesarea, Israel product opened her final nine with back-to-back birdies on No. 1 and No. 2 to move to one-under. A bogey on the third hole followed with six consecutive pars closed her day with an even-par, 72. She hit 15 greens, 10 fairways and had 32 putts.
Holding a one-under-par score with only four holes remaining, Blue Devil senior Alejandra Cangrejo closed with two bogeys and a double-bogey to post a three-over-par, 75. She is tied 37th overall with a 147. Cangrejo, who is from Bogota, Colombia, held a one-over-par, 37, on her first nine and then turned it on with birdies on both par fives, No. 1 and No. 4. She three-putted hole six for bogey, then had a bogey on No. 8 and a double-bogey to finish the day with a 75. Cangrejo hit 12 greens, six fairways and had 33 putts on the day.
Duke freshman Yu Liu, who entered the week ranked No. 4 nationally and finished in the top 10 of all eight tournaments, finds herself in unfamiliar territory as she shot a career-worst, 84, Friday and is tied 109th overall with a 157. After carding seven birdies in day one, Liu was held to only one in the second round. She hit 10 greens, five fairways and had 34 putts.
The Blue Devils carded 16 birdies on day two. Duke will tee off Saturday in the final round beginning at 8:51 p.m., along with Tulane and Vanderbilt.
“Our team is in great position right now,” said Choi. “I think we have the capability to go really low tomorrow. Just more putts dropping, hitting more fairways and getting up and downs will be perfect for us.”