Seventh heaven! Duke women’s golf claims another NCAA title

ACC rivals Wake Forest and Duke pushed each other beyond the limits Wednesday before the Blue Devils claimed a prize they’ve won so many times before.

In an NCAA women’s golf final that saw three of five matches go to extra holes, Duke edged the Demon Deacons, 3-2, at Blessings Golf Club in Fayetteville, Ark., to win the program’s seventh national championship.

The Blue Devils needed to rally over the final regulation holes to catch and surpass Wake Forest, which sought its first NCAA title in the sport. The thrilling win gave Duke its first title since 2014, which was the season before the NCAA switched from stroke play to match play to decide its champion.

Only Arizona State, with eight, has more national championships in women’s golf.

Coach Dan Brooks has won all seven championships for Duke during his 35 seasons at the school. No other Division I women’s golf coach has more national titles.

“I couldn’t feel more proud than I do right now,” Brooks said. “It’s been a heck of a week. But we’ve had a tough team all year long, and so they were tough this week, but they have been tough all year long. We’ve had plenty of weather and all kinds of stuff this year, and it’s required a lot of patience. College golf does that, and I’ve never been with a group that has just stayed positive and just ground it out, and they did it this week, just like they have been doing it all year. “

Ana Belac posted Duke’s first win of the day, beating Vanessa Knecht 5&3.

Jaravee Boonchant’s upset win in 19 holes over Wake Forest senior Jennifer Kupcho, last year’s NCAA individual champion and the world’s current No. 1-ranked amateur, put Duke in position to claim the title.

The Blue Devils locked it up when sophomore Miranda Wang defeated Wake Forest freshman Letizia Bagnoli on the 19th hole of their match.

Earlier, Wake Forest’s strong play on the front nine had it in position to claim the NCAA championship.

At one point, with all golfers on the back nine, Wake Forest led in four of the matches while Duke only had the edge Belac’s match.

The momentum flipped quickly in Duke’s favor.

Wang scored birdies on No. 13 and No. 15 to erase Bagnoli’s two-hole lead and square the match.

Kupcho’s birdie on 14 gave her a 1-up lead but Boonchant birdied No. 15 to tie the match again.

Boonchant’s birdie on the par-3 No. 17 gave her a 1-up lead, marking the first time Kupcho trailed in match play throughout the tournament.

Siyun Liu took a 1-up lead over Virginia Elena Carta with a birdie on 14. But on 16, Liu’s double-bogey, caused by a poor second shot that sailed over the green, allowed Carta to win the hole and square the match.

Cary’s Emilia Migliaccio, who played high school golf at Athens Drive prior to her Wake Forest career, used a birdie on the par-5 12th and an eagle on No. 13 to build a 2-hole lead over Duke freshman Gina Kim, who played at Chapel Hill High, after 14 holes.

Kim’s birdies on 15 and 17 tied the match.

But Migliaccio birdied the 18th hole to win the match 1-up and tie the overall match 1-1.

Kupcho’s errant tee shot on their first extra hole proved to be the difference Boonchant needed to finish her upset win over Kupcho to give Duke a 2-1 lead.

But Liu kept Wake Forest’s title dream alive, topping Carta on their 20th hole to knot the overall score at 2-2.

That left Wang and Bagnoli to decide who claimed the NCAA championship.

On their first extra hole, Bagnoli’s second shot on the par-5 layout went into the penalty area. Wang played conservatively, patiently waiting as Bagnoli needed 12 minutes between shots while she took a penalty stroke with a drop.

Bagnoli finally reached the green with her fifth shot. But Wang was already there in three. Her first putt was short but close enough that Bagnoli conceded the par that delivered Duke the national championship.

An Illinois native, Steve Wiseman has covered Duke athletics since 2010 for the Durham Herald-Sun and Raleigh News & Observer. Prior to his arrival in Durham, he worked for newspapers in Columbia and Spartanburg, S.C., Biloxi, Miss., and Charlotte covering beats including the NFL’s Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints, University of South Carolina athletics and the S.C. General Assembly.