LAKE ELMO, Minn. – The Duke women’s golf tandem of Erica Shepherd and Gina Kim combined to shoot 6-under-par Monday in the 2021-22 season opener at the ANNIKA Intercollegiate to pace the Blue Devils to a solid opening day. As a team, second-ranked Duke carded a 3-under-par, 285, on its way to being in second place with 36 holes remaining at the 6,410-yard, par-72 Royal Golf Club in Lake Elmo, Minn.
Shepherd, a junior from Greenwood, Ind., enters day two in a tie for third, while Kim, a senior out of Durham, N.C., is tied for 12th. Hannah Darling of South Carolina posted a 6-under, 66, and leads the individual action.
In the team standings, South Carolina shot 10-under, 278, and is in first, while Duke (285), Wake Forest (286), Arizona State (287), Southern California (287), UCLA (287), Ole Miss (290), Texas (291), Alabama (291) and Arizona (292) round out the top 10. The Blue Devils collected six birdies over their final two holes to finish solid.
“I am very pleased and not surprised that we went under par,” said Duke head coach Dan Brooks. “I was just talking [to the team] about how the Duke course is tough and we have been playing a lot there. Our numbers have been good, but not really under. It is pretty common that we will come out at the start of the season and play a little better than the way we have been playing back at home. That is exactly what happened here.”
Against one of the top fields the Blue Devils will face this fall, Shepherd rolled in her first birdie on the 321-yard, par-4 third hole by draining a 10-footer. She then hit her 52-degree wedge from 90 yards to two feet for birdie on No. 5 to get to 2-under. After a bogey on No. 7, she opened the back nine with a 6-foot birdie and then parred the next six holes. Shepherd finished strong with back-to-back birdies on No. 17 and No. 18, both par-5 holes. She rolled in an 8-footer on the 17th and a 5-footer on the 18th to finish with a 4-under, 68.
“I felt really good today,” said Shepherd. “I have been working with a few things on my swing and today it really came together. All around — putting, hitting and everything felt super solid. It was just great to be back here. It kind of reminded me of my first college tournament.”
Shepherd hit 14 fairways, 16 greens and rolled 30 putts. It marked her third career round in the 60s as a Blue Devil.
“She has been doing some great stuff with her swing,” said Brooks on Shepherd. “She said she has been a little bit off with her distance, but she said she got it all back today. Probably just needed a little adrenaline in there.”
Kim led Duke with six birdies on the day as she carded a two-under, 70. She opened the morning by hitting her 9-iron to six feet and rolling in the Blue Devils’ first birdie of the 2021-22 campaign. Kim moved to 2-under as she drained a 5-foot birdie on the fifth hole. After a bogey on No. 6, she rolled in a 12-foot birdie on No. 8 and then 2-putted for birdie on the 504-yard, par-5 ninth to get to 3-under. Kim had bogeys on No. 10 and No. 14 on the back, but after she hit her 60-degree wedge from 62 yards to 20 feet she drained her fifth birdie. She bogeyed No. 16, but then 2-putted for birdie on No. 18 to finish with a 70. She hit 13 fairways, 13 greens and had 30 putts.
Sophomore Anne Chen turned in a solid round, which could have been low, had a few more putts dropped on day one as she signed for an even-par, 72. She enters tied the second round tied for 18th, after registering three birdies on Monday. Chen, who is from Sugar Land, Texas, posted two bogeys over her first five holes, but posted her first birdie of the day on the 405-yard, par-4 sixth. She hit her 6-iron from 162 yards to two feet and sank the putt. She got back to even for the day with a short birdie on the par-5 ninth. Chen had seven straight pars on the back nine, including a 17-foot par-saving putt on No. 14. She closed with a bogey on No. 17 and a sand save birdie on No. 18 from four feet. She hit 14 greens, 14 fairways and turned in 32 putts.
In her collegiate debut, freshman Rylie Heflin had a solid day with a 3-over-par, 75, and is tied for 38th. After a bogey to open the morning, she sank a 3-foot birdie on No. 5. Heflin, who is from Avondale, Pa., got into trouble on No. 6 and No. 7 on her way to finishing with two straight double-bogeys. She finished strong though by shooting 1-under over her final 11 holes to finish with a 75. Heflin birdied No. 10 from 15 feet and then on the 400-yard, par-4 13th she hit her pitching wedge from 125 yards to inches for birdie. She added another birdie on No. 17 from five feet. Overall, Heflin hit 12 greens, 10 fairways and 32 putts.
Sophomore Phoebe Brinker collected 13 pars and one birdie in round one as she posted a 76. She played her final five holes at 1-under with a solid birdie on No. 17. Brinker, a product of Wilmington, Del., hit her second shot just in the greenside bunker and had a tough shot out. She hit it perfect and was able to sink the short birdie, for her lone one of the day. Brinker hit 12 greens, 11 fairways and rolled 32 putts.
The Blue Devils registered a total of 19 birdies in round one.
Duke will tee off starting at 9:50 a.m. (ET) in the second round along with South Carolina and Wake Forest.