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Sunday, March 5, 2017

It's a repeat for Knight and Alabama at Darius Rucker Invitational

   Something about the Long Cove Club in Hilton Head Island, S.C. seems to agree with Alabama’s Cheyenne Knight and the Crimson Tide program in general.
   Knight, a sophomore from Aledo, Texas, fired a brilliant 6-under-par 65 over the 6,218-yard, par-71 Long Cove layout Sunday to repeat as the individual champion and lead the Crimson Tide, No. 5 in the latest Golfstat rankings, to their second straight team title and fourth since 2011 as the Darius Rucker Intercollegiate concluded.
   The results were mixed for the two Philadelphia area players in the event. It was a strong finish for Wake Forest junior Erica Herr, a two-time PIAA champion at Council Rock North, as she matched par with a 71 to finish tied for 14th at 6-over 219. North Carolina freshman Brynn Walker, a two-time PIAA champion at Radnor, struggled, posting a final-round 80 to finish in a tie for 67th at 19-over 232.
   Knight’s outstanding effort helped Alabama post a final round of 2-over 286 for a 17-over 859 total that was two shots better than No. 18 Duke. The Blue Devils finished a solid tournament with a 4-over 288 and a 9-over 861 total. It was also a strong showing by No. 10 Arizona State, which carded a final round of 5-over 289 to take third at 13-over 865.
   It was another 11 shots back to tournament host South Carolina,  ranked 14th. The Gamecocks had a final-round 296 to take fourth at 876. No. 5 Georgia was fifth at 880 after a final-round 293, No. 6 Furman, which had a third strong showing in its spring campaign, was sixth at 883 after a final-round 291 and No. 19 Baylor was seventh at 890 after a final-round 303.
   It was a nice bounce-back for Herr and No. 11 Wake Forest, which had its best round of the tournament, a 7-over 291, to finish eighth at 892. No. 16 Oklahoma State was ninth at 895 after a final-round 297. Walker and North Carolina rounded out the top 10 as the No. 34 Tar Heels added a final-round 301 to rounds of 296 and 300 to finish 10th at 897.
   Knight was backed up by Kristen Gillman, a freshman from Austin, Texas who won the 2014 U.S. Women’s Amateur as a 16-year-old. Gillman held a one-shot lead in the individual race heading into the final round, but fell back with a 75, still finishing alone in fourth at 1-over 214.
   Also for the Crimson Tide, Lauren Stephenson, a sophomore from Lexington, S.C., earned a top-10 finish as her final-round 72 left her in a tie for ninth at 5-over 218. Lakareber Abe, a junior from Angleton, Texas, finished in a tie for 51st at 227 after a final-round 79 and Mia Landegren, a senior from Bridgewater, Conn., finished in a tie for 67th at 232 after a final-round 74.
   And let’s be clear here, when it comes to the team outcome, as splashy as Knight’s 65 was, Landegren’s 74, after earlier rounds of 78 and 80, was just as crucial to the Crimson Tide’s two-shot margin of victory.
   Knight’s round was a thing of beauty with no bogeys and three birdies on each side. Combined with her earlier rounds of 68 and 72, she finished at 8-under 205, cruising to a seven-shot victory.
Arizona State claimed the runnerup and third-place spots. Linnea Strom, a sophomore from Sweden, added a 72 to her pair of 70s to finish second at 1-under 212, the only other under-par total besides Knight in the tournament. Her teammate Sophia Zeeb, a junior from Germany, was another shot back at even-par 213 after a final-round 72.
   After Gillman in fourth, it was Duke, Duke, Duke and Duke.
   Sandy Choi, a senior from South Korea and the lone holdover from the Blue Devils’ 2014 national championship team, finished alone in fifth as a final-round 73 left her at 2-over 215.
   Three of her teammates finished tied for sixth at 3-over 216, led by Leona Maguire, a junior from Ireland and the No. 1 player in the women’s World Amateur Golf Ranking who had a third straight 72. Ana Belac, a freshman from Slovenia, had the Blue Devils’ low round of the day with a 1-under 70. Gurbani Singh, a junior from India, had a final-round 73.
   Wake Forest was led by Sierra Sims, a senior from Austin, Texas who had a final-round 72 to finish in a tie for ninth at 5-over 218.
   In addition to Herr’s tie for 14th, Jennifer Kupcho, a sophomore from Littleton, Colo., found her game in time to card a 1-over 72 and finish tied for 47th at 226 and Mathilda Cappeliez, a freshman from France and a semifinalist in the U.S. Women’s Amateur the last two summers, had a 76 to finish tied for 78th at 238.
   The Demon Deacons had no room for error team-wise after losing Antonia Eberhard, a sophomore from Germany, to injury during the second round.
   Kelly Whaley, a sophomore from Farmington, Conn., and Lexi Harkins, a junior from Crystal Lake, Ill., led the way for North Carolina, each finishing in the group tied for 27th at 9-over 222. Whaley struggled to a final-round 78 while Harkins posted a 75.
   Bryana Nguyen, a junior from Columbia, Md., bounced back from a second-round 84 to post a 1-over 72 in the final round and finish tied for 61st at 231. She was joined at that figure by Leslie Cloots, a senior from Belgium who had a final-round 76.
   In addition to Walker, North Carolina’s Mariana Ocano, a freshman from St. Petersburg, Fla., competed as an individual and a final-round 77 enabled her to finish tied for 78th at 238.

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