Duke's Ana Belac, Wake Forest's Vanessa Knecht share East Lake Cup individual honors

Cy Cyr /Golf Channel

Duke's Ana Belac, Wake Forest's Vanessa Knecht share East Lake Cup individual honors

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Duke's Ana Belac, Wake Forest's Vanessa Knecht share East Lake Cup individual honors

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ATLANTA — Wake Forest sophomore Vanessa Knecht and Duke senior Ana Belac had very different days on Monday at East Lake Golf Club, but both ended up with 69s and both were crowned individual champions at the East Lake Cup, a first in the tournament’s history.

Knecht, from Zurich, Switzerland, began the first of three days of competition among top NCAA Division I programs at the famed Atlanta golf course with confidence and a calm demeanor, allowing her to sail through 18 holes with five birdies and just two bogeys.

Finishing ahead of any of her competitors, one of the most intense moments of Knecht’s day was when she hit her third shot on the par-5 18th from the rough near the greenside bunker and landed just over six feet from the hole. She made the birdie putt to finish with the lead on the women’s side at 3-under 69.

PHOTO GALLERY: East Lake Cup
SCORES: Women individual | Women team | Men individual | Men team

When she recalled her only bogeys of the day on 10 and 11, Knecht laughed at the reasoning for the blips on her otherwise steady day. A pack of wasps found her on the 10th hole and followed her to her tee shot on 11, rattling her focus for a few moments. She said her coach doused her with bug spray on 11 and her focus returned.

Wake Forest’s Vanessa Knecht competes at the East Lake Cup on Monday, October 28, 2019. (Cy Cyr /Golf Channel)

“I knew that my game was good after that but then I just tried to do what I did before and try to stay confident,” Knecht said.

Knecht, who said she never had an individual victory before Monday, said being the individual champion at the East Lake Cup would be a confidence boost for her sophomore season, but also serves as a nod to friend and former teammate Albane Valenzuela, who won the honor last year.

“Sometimes when you work hard and you can’t see the results are kind of like, ‘What am I doing wrong?’ This would actually mean the world to me,” Knecht said before she knew if her 3-under 69 would be the low score of the day.

Knecht, the only one of her Wake Forest teammates to finish under par as the team finished 4-over 292, outlasted a rally from Arizona’s Therese Warner, who had four birdies on the back nine and finished with a 70, but couldn’t run away completely from Belac.

Belac, who had three birdies and two bogeys on the front nine, was 2 over after a double bogey on 11, but rallied with four birdies in five holes and tied Knecht on 18 with a birdie putt.

Duke’s Ana Belac competes at the East Lake Cup on Monday, October 28, 2019. (Cy Cyr /Golf Channel)

Belac, from Portroz, Slovenia, said she’s played “a lot of golf” at this point in her collegiate career, so the double bogey on 11 didn’t faze her.

“I do that a lot, like make mistakes in the middle of the round a lot of just have a bad start and I usually don’t let that put me down too much,” Belac said. “I know I’m capable of turning anything around and I just tried to get a little relaxed and enjoy the round.”

Duke finished 2-under 286 in stroke play to earn the top seed for team match play semifinals on Tuesday. On the women’s side, No. 1 Duke will face No. 4 Auburn while No. 2 Arizona will face No. 3 Wake Forest.

In the men’s semifinal competition, Texas earned the No. 1 seed and will face No. 4 Vanderbilt. No. 2 Wake Forest will play No. 3 Oklahoma State.

The final and consolation matches will be held Wednesday.

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