2006: College Bulldogs bite Blue Devils
By Beth Ann Baldry
Daytona Beach, Fla.
So the early streak ends at one. Duke opened the fall season with a victory at Vanderbilt and many wondered if the reigning NCAA champions were beatable. Seven days later, they got their answer.
Make no mistake, the Blue Devils are good. But this particular week, Georgia was better. After opening with a
nine-shot lead over Auburn at the Golf Daytona Beach Fall Preview, the Bulldogs managed to maintain that distance by tournament’s end. Georgia finished nine shots in front of Duke Sept. 24 after a closing 3-under 285, giving the team a 5-over 869 total.
“It’s probably the best field of any tournament since I’ve been at Georgia,” said coach Todd McCorkle. “I feel like we played some of our best golf against a great field, so that’s very satisfying.”
In a where-did-that-come-from moment, Duke opened the tournament in 11th place after a sluggish 18-over 306. The Blue Devils then vaulted into third on Day 2 with an even-par 288.
But the hole was too deep for Duke, Golfweek’s preseason No. 1 team, despite a 4-under performance in the final round.
Junior Jennifer Pandolfi gave it her best effort with a career-low 4-under 68 that included five consecutive birdies
on Nos. 7-11. Anna Grzebien added a 71 and Amanda Blumenherst shot 72.
“Georgia didn’t give,” said coach Duke coach Dan Brooks. “If you gotta lose, it’s not so bad losing to great golf.”
Duke isn’t used to defeat so early in the fall. In the last three seasons, Brooks’ teams have amassed at least a three-tournament winning streak to start the year. Their longest streak came during the 2003-04 season when the Devils won six in a row. This year Duke opened the fall with a three-stroke victory over Georgia at the Mason Rudolph Championship.
With temperatures creeping in the 90s and the lovebugs swarming, it wasn’t exactly a day at the beach for most players. Tennessee’s Nicole Smith, however, warmed up to the conditions with an opening 5-under 67. The long-bombing Californian struggled on Day 2 with 75, but bounced back nicely with 69 to win the individual title by four strokes over Georgia’s Mallory Hetzel (70) and Virginia’s Leah Wigger (71).
Hetzel has spent most of her college career in the shadow of her roommate, fellow sophomore Taylor Leon. It’s the friendly competition, however, that has spurred Hetzel to a new level of dedication this season.
“Each time I get a little closer,
she gets a little farther away,” said Hetzel, who took satisfaction from a career-best finish that edged her friend by one stroke. Leon tied for fourth after a closing 71.
Freshman Carolina Andrade and senior Whitney Wade added 72s Sunday for the Bulldogs. Of the 12 rounds Georgia posted in Daytona, 11 were 73 or lower.
“Our team this year . . . there’s definitely a cool vibe, very relaxed but at the same time confident,” Hetzel said. “There’s no real effort (needed) for people to get along. It’s just natural.”