Duke golfers, freshman Yu Liu rule Darius Rucker Intercollegiate

sfastenau@beaufortgazette.comMarch 10, 2014 

Duke's Yu Liu putts the ball on the green at No. 12 during the final round of the Darius Rucker Intercollegiate Women's Golf Tournament on Sunday afternoon at Long Cove Golf Club on Hilton Head Island.

DELAYNA EARLEY — Staff photo Buy Photo

Yu Liu remembered the putt from her practice round.

The Duke freshman felt the tilt from the back of the 18th green at Long Cove Club and figured a putt to a back right location -- where she assumed the hole would be cut Sunday -- should go right. It stayed straight during practice, and Liu jotted a note.

Faced with a similar putt Sunday afternoon with medalist honors on the line at the Darius Rucker Intercollegiate, Liu trusted her research and rolled in a 25-foot birdie putt to defeat Louisiana State's Caroline Nistrup on the first playoff hole.

"My instinct was 'I might make this one,'" said Liu, an 18-year-old from Beijing. "I was very nervous. My hands were shaking badly."

Liu's first collegiate individual victory punctuated the Blue Devils' team victory. Duke, the top-ranked team in the field at No. 3, finished at 10-over-par 862 to defeat Vanderbilt by 10 shots.

Duke was playing the event for the first time. Its win ended the run of Alabama, which had won the event the first two years.

Kalen Harris, coach of host South Carolina, played golf at Duke and was an assistant for longtime Blue Devils coach Dan Brooks. She called him to participate when the event was formed.

Until this year, scheduling conflicts kept Brooks and his team away.

The Blue Devils entered as the favorite but were limited after Alejandra Cangrejo withdrew due to a first-round injury. The team played only four players instead of five, meaning every score counted.

All four finished in the top 15.

"I've got to feel good about that," Brooks said. "That's a cushion you love to have and we didn't get to have."

Behind Liu, who finished 2 under, Celine Boutier tied for third at 1-under 212.

Known as a heavy hitter without much control off the tee, Liu admitted to nerves playing a course that demanded such precision. She hit 3-wood much of the time to keep the ball in play.

There were moments she was tested Sunday.

Leading at 4 under, Liu flew the green on the par-3 13th into a hazard and was forced to hit from a drop area. She stuck her approach and salvaged bogey.

"I had accepted a double," Liu said. "I just didn't want to make it worse."

On the next hole, she attacked the green from a plugged lie and under a tree and pulled it into another hazard, taking double bogey.

Liu had surrendered her lead, and knew that the perfect conditions Sunday had led to a crowded leaderboard hunting the medalist title.

She regrouped with a birdie on the par-5 15th and reached the playoff with pars. Her patience was helped knowing the back nine played difficult for everyone.

"I was disappointed, but at the same time, I didn't give up," Liu said. "I knew there were holes left."

Nistrup, who made bogey on the par-3 17th to drop into a tie, saved par from the grass bunker right of the 18th green after taking relief for an imbedded ball. She hit her approach to 10 feet during the playoff, but her putt to match Liu slid by the right side.

"I hit a really good putt," Nistrup said. "I thought it was in."

Duke was awarded the guitar that serves as the winner's trophy and posed for pictures outside Long Cove's recently revamped clubhouse. The event was the Blue Devils' second of the spring. Brooks' team finished second at the Northrop Grumman Regional Challenge in California.

Poor weather affected preparation at Long Cove, but Brooks said the Blue Devils were able to play most holes and ride the rest to scout the Pete Dye layout.

Duke led all three days. Liu, who started the final round in fourth, provided the bonus.

"For her to win on a tight, finesse golf course makes it even more special," Brooks said.

Follow reporter Stephen Fastenau at twitter.com/IPBG_Stephen.

Third-annual Darius Rucker Intercollegiate

at Long Cove Club, par-71

Final team results

Duke 284-291-287-- 862

Vanderbilt 293-290-289-- 872

Oklahoma 298-296-291-- 885

LSU 297-296-292-- 885

South Carolina 294-296-296-- 886

Wake Forest 299-302-286-- 887

North Carolina 295-297-300-- 892

Arkansas 297-300-295-- 892

Alabama 293-306-299-- 898

Stanford 297-303-299-- 899

Auburn 305-301-293-- 899

Arizona State 311-299-291-- 901

Virginia 305-294-304-- 903

Tennessee 304-300-300-- 904

Kentucky 307-299-299-- 905

Georgia 317 -295-302-- 914

Furman 307-303-310 -- 920

Top 10 individuals

Yu Liu, Duke 69-72-70-- 211

Caroline Nistrup, LSU 71-69-71-- 211

Celine Boutier, Duke 69-71-72 -- 212

Simin Feng, Vanderbilt 74-69-69-- 212

Noemi Jimenez, Arizona State 71-72-69 -- 212

Stephanie Meadow, Alabama 67-72-73-- 212

Elizabeth Mallett, North Carolina 72-70-72-- 214

Anne Tanguay, Oklahoma 70-74-72-- 216

Allison Emrey, Wake Forest 73-74-70-- 217

Marta Sanz, Auburn 76-70 -71-- 217

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