Team winner: Duke (13-under 851)
Individual winner: Ally McDonald, Mississippi State, 10-under 216
Also moving on: 2. Oklahoma (857), 3. Mississippi State (872), 4. Florida (877), 5. Airzona State (878), 6. UC Davis (880), 7. Wisconsin (883), 8. Michigan State (884)
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Eight times atop the magic eight: Eight always is a significant number at NCAA regionals – it’s the number of teams that gets to advance to the NCAA Championship – but particularly special this year for the Blue Devils. With a final-round 12-under 276 at the Central Regional, Duke secured its eighth NCAA regional victory on Saturday and its 25th national-championship berth. The Blue Devils posted a 13-under 851 total at the Jimmie Austin OU Golf Club in Norman, Okla.
The victory is especially significant for Dan Brook’s experienced Duke team because it’s only the second this season. Duke broke the ice with a 24-shot victory at the ACC Championship, and took the No. 1 seed into regionals. The Blue Devils are No. 3 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings.
“Every season is a different thing and we just keep going after it,” said Brooks. “It took us a while to get a win this year. A lot of times you are doing great things but not quite winning. This spring we had a lot of thirds, runner-ups but just not quite getting the big trophy. I feel great about this year.”
Duke hasn’t won a regional since 2007, and the last three years have been unusual. In 2011, Duke failed to advance to the NCAA Championship as a team for the first time 13 years. The Blue Devils went winless that season.
In 2012, Duke qualified for the national championship with a team of only four players. Then-sophomore Alejandra Cangrejo injured her elbow last year in the first round of regionals and had to sit out the rest of the week. She was able to tee it up for the national championship. This year, Cangrejo was crucial to Duke’s reigonal effort. She led the team with a 5-under 211 total, good enough for a tie for second. Senior Lindy Duncan, named Player of the Year after last season, was fifth with a 4-under 212 total.
This is the first time Duke has won the Central Regional. The team’s seven other victories have all come at the East Regional.
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Making up ground: The story of the day in Norman might be Wisconsin, a team that qualified for its second national championship in program history by climbing from 12th after the final round to seventh. Wisconsin entered regional with the No. 20 seed.
The Badgers were four shots out of the top 8 on a clogged leaderboard entering the final round. Kris Yoo said the message from head coach Todd Oehrlein was one of self-belief.
“Be patient, be confident,” Yoo said of that message. “Just believe in yourself and your teammates.”
Yoo gave teammates a good reason to believe in her. The junior shot a bogey-free 65, breaking her own personal best by four shots. From the outside, Wisconsin played through a pressure-packed day. Yoo, however, said she never felt it.
“I was not sticking it close all day,” she said. “I had a couple missed shots here and there and I would chip it onto the green, leave myself a nine-footer for a comeback and it would just drop in the hole. The hole was just really big today.”
Oerhlein said the whole team was confident and composed from the beginning. A final-round even-par 288 was the team’s best score of the week. It left Wisconsin with a 19-over 883 total.
“Given the situation, this was a huge round for us,” he said. “It was a good round for anybody.”
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Short shots: Home-team Oklahoma finished second to Duke after taking the lead into the final round. The Sooners finished at 7-under 857. … Washington, which was the top-ranked team in the country in the fall, failed to advance. The Huskies missed by two strokes. … Mississippi State’s Ally McDonald lapped the individual field. McDonald shot three rounds in the 60s and finished at 2-under 206. Her team also qualified after finishing third, earning its first national-championship berth in program history. … Wake Forest’s Olafia Kirstinsdottir and Washington’s Ying Luo were the two individuals to qualify for the national championship.