Quick thoughts from the weekend:
__1.__With Duke's streak of 13 straight ACC women's titles ending last spring, the Blue Devils losing perennial All-Americans Amanda Blumenherst and Jennie Lee to graduation and three freshmen (Lindy Duncan, Courtney Ellenbogen and Stacey Kim) needing to pick up the slack, few people expected much from Dan Brooks' squad. Yet the 2009-10 Dukies are under the radar no longer after a one-stroke victory (17-over 881) at the NCAA Preview yesterday at CC of Landfall in Wilmington, N.C.
It was Duke's veteran, senior Alison Whitaker, who posted a final-round 69 and had it stand up thanks to 73s from Kim, Ellenbogen and Kim Donovan, allowing Duke to finish with an even-par 288 to pass second-round leader UCLA and hold off Auburn by the single stroke. It's Duke's first victory since the 2008 ACC Championship.
"I am very proud of this team," Brooks said afterward. "I am proud of Alison for leading the way and getting under-par the last two days. I am real proud of our freshmen, but what is great is we got contributions from everybody on the team. It just seemed like everyone was solid and handled the situation very well."
I know, I know ... there are some who think I'm a Duke apologist. However, consider that of the ACC's new "Big Four" (Wake Forest, Virginia and North Carolina), only Duke was able to win a tournament this fall.
2. All credit to Duke, but I'm guessing the Bruins are kicking had a long flight back to Los Angeles last night after shooting a final-round 11-over 299 to let the tournament slip away. Thankfully, it wasn't the final round of the fall for UCLA, so they can redeem themselves rather than have to live with it for the winter.
3. Don't look now but Auburn junior Cydney Clanton has started playing the way she did while earning national freshman of the year honors two seasons ago. Clanton posted back-to-back-to-back 70s to finish at six-under 210, claiming medalist honors by five strokes over Virginia's Brittany Altomare.
4. A fair number of "WD (illness/injury)" led to some top-ranked teams falling down the leader board at CC of Landfall. USC's Belen Mozo missed the final round after jarring her previously injured shoulder Saturday, and with the Trojans already playing without Jennifer Song their 16th place finish becomes a bit more understandable. Top-ranked Arizona State hung tough without Juliana Murcia playing the final two rounds, finishing fourth, only eight strokes back of Duke. Pepperdine too had to do without Taylore Karle for the closing 36 holes, perhaps explaining the Waves' 17th-place showing.
__5.__Virginia's Ben Kohles has been having an impressive fall, but it was the Amory Davis who equaled the Cavaliers' 54-hole scoring record (11-under 205) en route to a one-stroke victory at the UNCG Bridgestone Collegiate. Davis ties the mark set by Jimmy Flippen in 1995, Steve Marino in 2001 and Jeremy Luce in 2003. It also broke the tournament top mark by a single stroke as Davis claimed his first college title.
__6.__Detractors of college golf who say the system doesn't help develop players hopefully were watching the Frys.com Open on the PGA Tour this past weekend. While Rickie Fowler and Jamie Lovemark fell in a playoff to Troy Matteson at Grayhawk GC in Scottsdale, the fact these two were in a playoff in just their second and third tour starts as professionals suggests perhaps they really did learn a thing or two while earning All-American honors at Oklahoma State and USC respectively. Fowler and Lovemark learned how to win in college and came close to doing it Sunday.