By HEATHER ANGELL
Wake Forest has come a long way from the last-place finish in its first tournament of the spring to having some momentum heading into the NCAA Regionals.
The Demon Deacons posted the lowest final-round score of the ACC Women’s Tournament at Sedgefield Country Club on April 15 to claim third place, 17 shots behind champion Duke.
This finish was in stark contrast to the numbers posted two months earlier in their 2012 opener when they finished 15th of 15 teams in the Northrop Grumman Regional Challenge in California.
“I am pleased with the players’ progress. We have struggled this year trying to get up in the standings, but now the team knows they can play with anyone,” Wake Forest coach Dianne Dailey said. “I think they learned a lot about themselves and how they play under adversity and tough conditions.”
Wake Forest is hoping to receive an invitation to the NCAAs on May 10-12. Top finishers there will move on to the NCAA Championship, scheduled for May 23-26 at Vanderbilt University’s Legends Club.
With Sedgefield’s greens rolling 11.5 on the stimpmeter, properly judging the gusty, swirling winds and hitting greens on the 6,163-yard course proved to be a challenge for some golfers to shoot low scores.
Duke did just that in the first round, taking a 10-shot lead over 2011 champ North Carolina with a 4-under-par 280. The Tar Heels were only able to shave a shot off the deficit despite Duke’s second-round 303. The Blue Devils, behind the medalist performance by Lindy Duncan (70-69-71) got that stroke back in round three with a 292 while Wake closed the gap on the leaders with 289, holding off fourth-place Florida State by seven shots.
Wake’s charge to the top was led by Olafia Kristinsdottir of Iceland. The sophomore fired the tournament’s best final round with a 68 and tied for second individually with Duke’s Alejandra Cangrejo and Florida State’s Maria Salinas. Kristinsdottir carded only one bogey in her career low round, tying the lowest final round in Wake Forest ACC Championship history. Two of her five career sub-par rounds were shot in this tournament.
“She has worked really hard this year. She has improved four shots since last year and is really playing well,” said Dailey.
Senior Cheyenne Woods of Phoenix, the defending champ, claimed her third straight ACC top 10 with a tie for seventh (76-72-72).
“I am happy with the way I played the last two rounds. The first day I struggled, but overall I am really pleased. I trusted my swing. I trusted my putting. I played smart. My whole family is here, so it was a great experience,” she said.
The Demon Deacons also got huge contributions from freshmen Allison Emrey of Charlotte and Marissa Dodd of Allen, Texas. Dodd opened with a 73 and ended tied for 25th and Emrey had a closing 75 after opening with 79-77.
Junior Greta Lange saved her best for last, a 74 that was Wake’s third best score the final day.
Duncan, a junior from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., and two-time ACC Player of the Year, claimed a six-shot victory – her fourth individual title so far in 2012.
The title was Duke’s first since 2008 and the 17th in its storied history. “The energy was definitely there. We knew how important this was,” said long-time Blue Devil coach Dan Brooks. “I wish we had five more tournaments on Sedgefield between now and regionals. This is the best preparation we have where you have to grind it out, manage your expectations and you have to be gutsy.”
The 2012 ACC Championship was the final tournament played at Sedgefield before it closes May 14 to replace bentgrass greens with bermudagrass.
“The course is in great shape this week, but we are looking forward to changing the greens to bermudagrass,” said Sedgefield head pro Rocky Brooks.
The new greens will be ready for the PGA Tour’s Wyndham Championship in August.