- Duke University photo
What an impressive way to open the spring slate for the Duke women's golf program as the Blue Devils claimed the team title at the Northrop Grumman Regional Challenge against nine top 10 teams and one of the best fields of the season.
Following a solid 11-under-par, 273, Monday, the Blue Devils held an eight-stroke lead heading into the final round. Duke carded a one-under-par, 283, and collected a seven-stroke victory at the 6,017-yard, par 71 Palos Verdes Golf Club in Palos Verdes Estates, Calif.
In eight appearances at the Northrop Grumman Regional Challenge, it marked the first team title for the Blue Devils and the 137th career victory for Duke head coach Dan Brooks, which continues to lead all NCAA Division I head coaches.
"Today was even more fun than yesterday," commented Brooks. "Seventeen birdies on the back nine. Although we shot lower yesterday, our golf seemed just as good today. The flag locations were tougher today. Everyone contributed important rounds for the event. Ana (Belac) was a rock out there. Miranda's (Wang) winter work on her swing really paid off, almost getting the individual win. Megan (Furtney) shot even for the event on a very interesting and difficult course she'd never seen before. I'm real proud of this team."
Duke carded rounds of 291, 273 and 283 for a five-under, 847, which broke the previous Northrop Grumman Regional Challenge tournament record by nine strokes. Southern California (854), Texas (855), UCLA (858), Arizona State (859), Kent State (868), Stanford (869), Wake Forest (870), Auburn (872) and Oregon (876) rounded out the top 10 teams.
The Blue Devils got off to a slow start Tuesday and fell into a tie for first, but never trailed. After moving back to even par for the tournament and six-over-par to start the morning, Duke came through big on the back nine with 17 back nine birdies to seal the victory.
The Blue Devils featured junior Miranda Wang and senior Ana Belac in the top five of the individual leaderboard as Wang was tied for second and Belac placed tied for fifth.
Wang carded the best finish of her Duke career along with the best 54-hole ledger as a Blue Devil as she carded a five-under-par, 208, with rounds of 74, 66 and 68. A product of Beijing, China, Wang opened her day on hole No. 2 with a bogey, but then collected birdies on No. 6 and No. 8 to move into the red. She then had a bogey on No. 9, birdie on No. 11 and bogey on No. 12. Wang then collected four straight birdies from holes 14 through 17 to get to four-under-par. She went on to finish the day with a bogey on No. 1 to shoot a three-under-68.
She led the field with a total of 17 birdies. Wang hit 13 greens, 10 fairways and added 28 putts on the final day.
Auburn's Kaleigh Telfer won the individual title with a six-under-par, 207, one stroke ahead of Wang and Arizona State's Olivia Mehaffey (208).
Turning in her second top 10 finish at the Northrop Grumman, Belac carded rounds of 74, 66 and 70 on her way to finishing tied for fifth with a 210. She notched two pars over her first two holes and then had three bogeys over a span of four holes, while also collecting a birdie on the par five fifth.
Belac, who is from Portoroz, Slovenia, made the turn at two-over-par, 37, and then had her irons working on the back. She hit it stiff on the 355-yard, par four 11th and sank the four-foot birdie, while also connecting on a three-foot birdie on No. 14. Belac added another birdie on the par five 16th and would finish with a one-under-par, 71. She hit 11 greens, 10 fairways and had 27 putts.
"I'm really proud how everyone contributed to the win," said Belac. "It shows how solid everyone on the team is. Obviously, it's awesome to start the season with a win, but I think for a team as ambitious as ours, it just adds to the motivation to work even harder for the remaining of the season."
Megan Furtney, a native of St. Charles, Ill., was competing in her second collegiate event and posted her first top 15 finish of her short time as a Blue Devil. Over the three days, she notched three straight rounds of even-par, 71, to finish with an even-par, 213.
In the final round, she opened her morning on No. 4 and collected six straight pars. After a double-bogey on No. 10, Furtney collected two six-foot birdie putts in a row to get back to even par. She then suffered a triple-bogey on the 404-yard, par four 13th, but once again rebounded strong. Furtney reeled off a birdie on the 404-yard, par four 14th as she nearly drove the green and then got up and down for birdie.
On the 140-yard, par three 15th, Furtney hit her 9-iron to seven feet and rolled in the birdie and then two-putted for birdie on the par five 16th to finish off her third straight birdie to move back to even for the day. Furtney closed with a bogey on No. 18, hit her 9-iron from 123 yards to six feet for birdie on No. 1 and parred the final two holes to finish with a 71. She hit 12 greens, eight fairways and rolled 28 putts in the final round.
After collecting rounds of 72 and 70 the first two days, sophomore Gina Kim signed for a 78 on the final day. She registered back-to-back birdies on No. 11 and No. 12 on her way to placing tied for 29th with a 222.
Erica Shepherd teed off on No. 5 to start the day and was three-over-par through five holes. The rookie from Greenwood, Ind., came back to drain a five-foot birdie on the 263-yard, par four 12th and then drove the green on No. 14, before two-putting for birdie to get back to one-over. She would go on to finish with a three-over-par, 74, and finished tied for 67th with a 229.
The Blue Devils collected 22 birdies in the final round and closed the three days with a total of 54 birdies to lead the field.
-- Thanks to Duke Women's Golf for this report.