The college golf world learned Monday night that Duke’s Virginia Elena Carta isn’t just a talented golfer. She’s also partially clairvoyant.
Prior to the start of the NCAA Women’s Championship, the 19-year-old freshman from Italy had a vision that the individual winner would shoot 16 under par, which turned out to be exactly right when the final round of the individual championship wrapped up at Eugene (Ore.) Country Club.
Carta, however, failed to see who would be the one shooting the record-setting 72-hole score. Turns out, all she needed to do was look in the mirror.
“I didn’t think it would have been me,” Carta insisted after posting her fourth straight sub-70 round to win the title by an impressive eight strokes over Arizona’s Haley Moore and Miami’s Dewi Weber
Envisioning Carta’s convincing victory would have been tough for anyone. In nine starts in the 2015-’16 season, the college newcomer posted a modest 73.12 stroke average, second best on the Blue Devils squad behind first-team All-American Leona Maguire. Prior to late March, she had just one top-10 finish as she adapted to life in Durham, N.C.
But in her last four starts leading up to nationals, Carta had four straight top-10 performances.
With a little momentum, Carta put together an historic performance at the championship. Her 16-under total broke the NCAA Championship 72-hole scoring mark by four strokes, set previously by Miami’s Penny Hammel in 1983 and Oklahoma State’s Caroilne Hedwall in 2012.
Carta made just one bogey over her final 53 holes after making 20 birdies for the entire tournament. The key, she said, was confidence in her short game, particularly her putter.
Carta admitted to being nervous in the final round, unable to get sleep the night before despite holding a six-stroke lead.
“She is strong, she hits it straight and she is flying it high onto these greens,” said Duke coach Dan Brooks. “She’s got the whole game. She has a lot of passion. All we do is just kind of calm her down.”
Her other accomplishments:
She became the eighth freshman to win the individual title, the most recent being USC’s Annie Park in 2013.
She became the first freshman to earn her first college victory at the NCAA Women’s Championship since USC’s Jennifer Rosales in 1998.
She became the fourth Blue Devil to win medalist honors, joining Candy Hannemann (2001), Virada Nirapathpongporn (2002) and Anna Grzebien (2005).
Carta’s performance also helped Duke advance to the match play portion of the team championship. The Blue Devils claimed the No. 6 seed and face USC in the team quarterfinals on Tuesday.