NCAA WOMEN’S GOLF:

Duke storms course before weather hits

By: Tom Murphy
Published: Sunday, May 19, 2019
Arkansas' Maria Fassi watches her tee shot on the 10th hole at the Blessings Golf Club on Saturday, May 18, 2019, in Johnson.
Photo by J.T. Wampler
Arkansas' Maria Fassi watches her tee shot on the 10th hole at the Blessings Golf Club on Saturday, May 18, 2019, in Johnson.

FAYETTEVILLE -- Mother Nature was the only force that could stop No. 3 Duke on Day Two of the NCAA women's golf championships.

The Blue Devils had three players in the clubhouse with under-par rounds, including junior Ana Belac at 4-under 69, and two on the course under par when the threat of severe weather halted play at 12:15 p.m. at Blessings Golf Club on Saturday.

Duke had a team score of 11 under for the day to reach 2 over for the tournament and take a huge lead in the weather-halted second round.

Play was stopped at 5 p.m. after a delay of nearly four hours, and it is scheduled to resume this morning, likely before 8 a.m., weather permitting.

No. 1 Southern California also made a big move with a 5-under team score to reach 9 over for the tournament, seven shots behind the Blue Devils.

First-round co-leaders No. 2 Texas and No. 10 Arkansas had better rounds under way than on Friday, when they opened at 10 over, but not as good as the leaders.

The Longhorns were at 1 over for the day and 11 over for the championship, which was good for third place. Defending champion and No. 4 Arizona is at 12 over, and the Razorbacks are at 13 over, one shot ahead of No. 7 Stanford.

The Blue Devils were in fifth after a 13 over first round before burning up the course Saturday morning.

"I don't really know why the scores are so much lower today than they were yesterday," Duke Coach Dan Brooks said. "They have obviously learned a lot about the golf course, but I don't know if that accounts for all of it."

Duke freshman Gina Kim, who shot a 3-under 70 to move to 2 over for the tournament, said dew on the greens made them softer and more receptive to approach shots to open the round.

Brooks was not surprised his team positioned itself to turn in the best round of the tournament.

"They are really talented players," he said. "I was more surprised that we were as far over yesterday. The course is a challenging golf course and is set up tough. There are a few tough holes out there, but I'm not surprised when they go under par because they've done it before."

If the Blue Devils stay on course to finish the round this morning, they'll have to discard an under-par round, something the rest of the field wished it could afford.

The Razorbacks, who started on the back nine, had golfers spread out between their 12th and 15th holes of the day and were at 3 over for the round.

"I thought we did a great job," Arkansas Coach Shauna Taylor said. "Obviously, we had a couple of hiccups out there, but we're getting ready to hit the part of the golf course where I think we can get some back. So I'm excited we're right where we want to be and looking forward to the opportunity to come back out in the morning."

Arkansas Senior Maria Fassi played the back nine at even par, then had birdies on Nos. 1 and 2 before the delay. Fassi is at 3 under for the tourney, one shot behind Arizona senior Bianca Pagdanganan, who was at even par through 16 holes on Saturday.

The Trojans combined for 12 birdies and five bogeys with a hot start on the front nine.

"We like no wind," USC Coach Justin Silverstein said. "We got about 2 miles an hour for an hour and a half to start the day. There were a little softer pins today. I think the rain really helped soften those greens, so good speed on the greens from what it looked like. We're starting to figure out the lines on some of the tees."

Duke's Belac, one of 18 players to complete the second round, joined Pagdanganan and Texas' Hailee Cooper as the only players to shoot 69 thus far in a round.

"Basically, I was really patient out there and tried to hit as many solid shots as possible and was waiting for putts to drop," Belac said. "I got them to drop today, which was a huge difference from yesterday."

Belac is tied for third place at 1 under for the championship with Arkansas' Kaylee Benton, Florida's Sierra Brooks and USC's Amelia Garvey.

Garvey came out smoking with six birdies in her first seven holes. She dropped four strokes on the back nine after making the turn at 6 under and is 2 under for the day with two holes to play, ready to join teammates Gabriela Ruffels (70) and Malia Nam (72), who had already completed under-par rounds.

"We're a great team, we always knew," Garvey said. "That was the worst we could have played [Friday]. We always knew we were going to come back and put some good numbers up.

"I think we just really got off to a solid start compared to [Friday]. We made a lot of birdies on the front nine, which made it a lot easier when the wind picked up in the afternoon."

The current top 10 includes three teams who had not teed off on Saturday in No. 14 Arizona State (+18), No. 18 Washington (+19) and No. 22 Purdue (+20), which is tied for ninth with No. 13 Auburn. The Tigers had a 1-under-par round going when the delay hit, led by Kaleigh Teller at 2 under and Julie McCarthy at 1 under.

After the six players currently under par, two more -- Duke's Miranda Wang and Stanford's Albane Valenzuela -- are at even par.

Defending NCAA medalist Jennifer Kupcho of Wake Forest went eagle, birdie, double bogey on her last three holes of the day to sit at 2 over for the round and 7 over for the tournament.

For Arkansas, freshman Brooke Matthews was at 2 over through 12 holes and is tied for 36th overall with a 5 over. Senior Dylan Kim birdied two of her last three holes before the delay and is working on a round of 5 over. Freshman Ximena Gonzalez is also at 5 over for the round after a triple bogey 7 on the par-4 fourth hole.

Sports on 05/19/2019

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