Two of the perennial powers in men’s and women’s Division I college golf, Illinois and Duke, respectively, each made a statement with East Lake Cup victories Wednesday at Atlanta’s East Lake Golf Club.
There is a lot of golf to be played between now and the grueling collegiate postseason next spring. But to get the ultimate prize in college golf, you have to win some matches once the field is cut to eight quarterfinalists. The East Lake Cup, with TV coverage by The Golf Channel and a format that brings together the nation’s premier programs, is the perfect proving ground, especially for young players.
The Illinois men, who came to Atlanta No. 4 in the latest Golfstat rankings, won the East Lake Cup title for the second year in a row with a 3-2 victory over defending national champion and 18th-ranked Oregon in a rematch of a national semifinal last spring won by the Ducks.
The Duke women came to Atlanta ranked 23rd, despite a roster that includes Leona Maguire, the No. 1 player in the Women’s World Amateur Ranking, and defending NCAA individual champion Virginia Elena Carta. But the Blue Devils scored a solid 3-1-1 victory over defending national champion Washington to earn the East Lake Cup title.
The Fighting Illini got off to a fast start when their best player, Nick Hardy, a junior from Northbrook, Ill., rolled to a 5 and 4 victory over Edwin Yi, a sophomore from Beaumont, Calif., over the 7,450-yard, par-72 East Lake layout.
Illinois then nailed down the victory with a couple of wins from two of its younger players. Edoardo Lipparelli, a sophomore from Italy, topped Nigel Lett, a redshirt senior from Beaverton, Ore., 2 and 1, and Bryan Baumgarten, a freshman Granite Bay, Calif., cruised to a 5 and 4 win over Sulman Raza, a redshirt senior from Eugene, Ore. who sank the putt that clinched the national championship for the Ducks last spring.
Oregon got a 5 and 4 win from Ryan Grunland, a redshirt sophomore from Pleasanton, Calif., over Michael Feagles, a freshman from Scottsdale, Ariz., and a 1-up decision from Wyndham Clark, a redshirt senior from Denver, over Dylan Meyer, a junior from Evansville, Ind.
In the consolation match, No. 12 Texas claimed a 4-1 win over top-ranked Vanderbilt.
The Longhorns got match victories from Scottie Scheffler, a junior from Dallas, Gavin Hall, a senior from Pittsford, N.Y., Doug Ghim, a senior from Arlington Heights, Ill., and Steven Chervony, a sophomore from Boca Raton, Fla.
The Commodores’ lone point came on a win from Patrick Martin, a sophomore from Birmingham, Ala.
It was a pretty good showing for Texas, which got an individual title for Scheffler Monday and suffered a tough 3-2 loss to Oregon in the semifinals before a solid match-play success over Vanderbilt. The Commodores arrived in Atlanta with the No. 1 ranking, seemed to validate that ranking by cruising to the top seed in stroke play, but suffered a pair of stinging match-play setbacks.
On the women’s side, Duke seemed to get back on track. The Blue Devils won the 2014 NCAA championship, the last one contested at stroke play only for the women, but never seemed to fire last year. There is a long way to go, but their East Lake Cup success is certainly a good sign.
Lisa Maguire, a junior from Ireland and Leona’s twin sister, got Duke started with a 1-up win over Eun Won Park, a freshman from Tenafly, N.J., over an East Lake course that measures 6,249 yards for the women. Lisa Maguire has struggled through swing changes for much of her time at Duke and was only in Atlanta as a late replacement for Gurbani Singh, a junior from India who became ill last week.
Carta, a sophomore from Italy, cruised to a 7 and 6 victory over Ellen Takada, a freshman from Irvine, Calif. In addition to her NCAA individual title last spring, Carta lost in the final of the U.S. Women’s Amateur at Rolling Green Golf Club this summer to South Korea’s Eun Jeong Seong in a thriller that went to the 36th hole.
Sandy Choi, a senior from South Korea, got a third win for Duke with a 4 and 3 victory over Sarah Rhee, a sophomore from Seattle. Leona Maguire, a junior from Ireland, picked up a half when she battled Washington’s Julianne Alvarez, a sophomore from New Zealand, to a draw.
The lone win for the Huskies came from Wenyung Keh, like Alvarez, a sophomore from New Zealand, who claimed a 2-up decision over Ana Belac, a freshman from Slovenia.
Two other Pac-12 powers teed it up in the consolation match with No. 3 Stanford claiming a 3-2 win over No. 6 UCLA.
Stanford got wins from Shannon Aubert, a junior from Stuart, Fla., Casey Danielson, a senior from Osceola, Wis., and Andrea Lee, the outstanding freshman from Hermosa Beach, Calif. Lee prevailed over Danielson in a six-hole playoff for the individual title and won both her matches in Atlanta. A member of the U.S. Curtis Cup team and a loser to Seong in the final of the U.S. Girls’ Junior final and in the quarterfinals of the Women’s Amateur at Rolling Green, Lee is an exceptional match-play competitor.
UCLA got wins from Clare Legaspi, a freshman from the Philippines, and Bronte Law, a senior from England and part of the winning Great Britain & Ireland team, along with Leona Maguire, in the Curtis Cup Match.
The landscape of the women’s scene might be altered somewhat by the results of the final stage of LPGA Qualifying School, which will be held Nov. 28 to Dec. 4 at LPGA International in Daytona Beach, Fla. Law and Leona Maguire, for instance, had top-10 finishes in Stage II a couple of weeks ago.
If a player earns a ticket to the LPGA Tour, she will have to seriously consider turning pro and going that route. Arkansas lost its top player, Mexico’s Gaby Lopez, to the tour a year ago, so we’ll have to see how that plays out early next month.