The Darius Rucker Intercollegiate almost had its first professional winner last summer.
Ireland’s Leona Maguire found herself tied for the lead coming to the final hole of the Ladies European Masters in England, but was unable to force Beth Allen to a playoff when she was unable to save par from a greenside bunker.
Here’s the twist, though — Maguire is back at Long Cove Club this weekend.
The world’s top-ranked women’s amateur but just a Duke sophomore, Maguire begins her quest for a second consecutive Rucker crown — and perhaps the Blue Devils’ third straight as a team — when 90 golfers representing 17 schools tee off Friday morning.
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The fifth Rucker Intercollegiate also features three other golfers among the world’s top 20, including Duke teammate Celine Boutier and Alabama’s Emma Talley, the reigning NCAA champion and 2013 U.S. Women’s Amateur winner.
The team lineup is no less strong — five of the top seven teams in Golfweek’s college rankings, including No. 1 Southern California, No. 2 Duke and No. 3 Georgia. South Carolina once again serves as the host school.
“It’s nice that we’re starting to get a little more recognition,” said Bob Patton, Long Cove’s head professional. “The better teams like to play against the better teams. They feel like we give the a pretty good venue for the event, and we try our best to take care of them while they’re here.”
This marks the second consecutive year that the Rucker will host the world’s top women’s amateur. Boutier held that position a year ago, though the event may have served as something of a passing of the baton.
Maguire set a new tournament record with a second-round 65, then joined LSU’s Madeline Sagstrom in breaking the 54-hole mark before winning a playoff. It was the first of three wins for the freshman, along with the ACC Tournament and Duke’s NCAA regional.
Maguire was named the winner of the Annika Award, given to college golf’s top woman, before her near-triumph at the Ladies European Masters.
The Rucker has now been around long enough that some of its alumni are working their way up the professional ranks, though that first victory remains elusive. Hilton Head Island’s Stephanie Meadow had her own close call two years ago, placing third at the U.S. Women’s Open at Pinehurst.
At least six Rucker alumni have earned LPGA privileges. In addition, 2013 winner Noemi Jimenez (Arizona State) is a member of the Ladies European Tour.
“Only a small percentage of them get to move on to the next level,” Patton said, “but I’m sure we’ll see a few of them from here.”
Spectators are welcome at Long Cove all three days.
Darius Rucker Intercollegiate
Where: Long Cove Club.
Teams (Golfweek ranking): Southern California (1), Duke (2), Georgia (3), Arkansas (6), Alabama (7), Oklahoma State (11), Tennessee (18), Furman (26), Virginia (29), South Carolina (30), Auburn, Kentucky, LSU, Mississippi State, North Carolina, Vanderbilt, Wake Forest.