Duke rallies to win NCAA Fall Preview
Duke made up 10 shots Sunday in the final round to stun top-ranked UCLA and win the NCAA Fall Preview.
The Blue Devils, who graduated three-time college player of the year Amanda Blumenherst and All-American Jennie Lee last spring, closed with an even-par 288 at the Country Club of Landfall in Wilmington, N.C., to finish at 17-over 881.
No. 4 Auburn (288) and UCLA (299) tied for second at 18-over 882.
It was the first stroke-play victory for the 13th-ranked Blue Devils since the 2008 ACC Championship.
“I had a really fun day today just watching solid golf,” Duke coach Dan Brooks said. “Everybody just seemed really poised. That really goes a long ways.”
Senior Alison Whitaker made four back-nine birdies – including at the par-5 18th – for a closing 3-under 69. She tied for sixth, moving up 20 spots in the final round. Freshmen Courtney Ellenbogen and Stacey Kim shot 73, as did junior Kim Donovan.
“It’s cool having such a young team and being there for their first win, and doing it by coming from behind and gutting it out,” Whitaker said. “It’s the best way to do it.”
After opening the season with a 10th-place finish NGCA Match Play Championship in which they were 30 over par for 36 holes of stroke-play qualifying, the Blue Devils shot 11-under 565 and tied for fourth Sept. 27 at the Mason Rudolph Championship then tied for seventh Oct. 11 at the Tar Heel Invitational.
Duke posted seven rounds of 73 or better on a Landfall course Brooks called “really tough.”
“I don’t find this win very surprising," Whitaker said. "I see all the golf we play behind the scenes. I know what these girls are capable of.”
Auburn junior Cydney Clanton, No. 4 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, shot three consecutive 70s for a 6-under 210 total to win the individual title by five shots over Virginia freshman Brittany Altomare. Second-round leader Cheyenne Woods, a junior at Wake Forest, closed with 77 and tied for third.
Auburn ended its fall season with two second-place finishes and two third-place finishes.
Defending national champions Arizona State, No. 2 in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, finished fourth. No. 3 Purdue was fifth.
Playing without sophomore standout Jennifer Song, Golfweek’s 2009 College Player of the Year who started the season with back-to-back victories, fifth-ranked USC finished 16th out of 18 teams. Song is in South Korea preparing for the LPGA’s Hana Bank - KOLON Championship Oct. 30-Nov. 1.