ATLANTA – The favorites rolled Tuesday at the inaugural East Lake Cup, setting up a pair of championship matches that will feature four of the top 15 teams in the country.
Duke and Southern Cal, who have won eight of the past 14 women's NCAA titles, will clash in the final match that begins at 11:15 a.m. ET at East Lake. The Blue Devils and Trojans are ranked Nos. 1 and 2, respectively.
On the men’s side, Georgia held off reigning NCAA champion LSU, 3-1-1, while Illinois won the first three points to take down USC by the same score.
Duke received points from Gurbani Singh, NCAA Player of the Year Leona Maguire, Celine Boutier and Sandy Choi during a 4-1 rout of defending NCAA champion Stanford.
USC led a depleted Baylor squad by only a 2-1-2 margin when play was suspended Monday because of darkness. The Trojans pulled away thanks to Kyung Kim and Robynn Ree, who won big, and then Gaby Then, who won three holes in a row late to earn the clinching point.
“It’s gonna be a dogfight,” USC coach Andrea Gaston said. “They’re stacked.”
Georgia’s Zach Healy needed to make a 4-foot par putt on the last to hold off LSU senior Zach Wright – who went undefeated in match play last June – and send the Bulldogs to the finals.
“He had a pretty good record,” Healy said, “so it feels really good to be able to take him down.”
The Bulldogs also received points from Jaime Lopez Rivarola, their No. 5 man, and senior Lee McCoy, who cruised to a 5-and-4 victory despite dislocating a rib only four days earlier.
Georgia has a tough finals match against Illinois, which ended any hopes of a USC rally by winning the first three matches.
The Illini needed some help to do it. Sophomore Dylan Meyer appeared on his way to losing in 19 holes, with USC’s Jonah Texeira only 20 feet away for eagle, but Texeira four-putted down the slope to hand the match to Meyer.
“I thought he’d two-putt,” Meyer said, “but I had a similar putt yesterday and knew it wasn’t easy.”
About five minutes later, with his match all square on the final hole, Illinois senior Thomas Detry watched with surprise as his opponent, freshman Justin Suh, hit 3-wood for his second shot into the par-5 ninth. Suh needed to hammer the fairway wood just to clear a cross bunker, and he didn’t, not in the cool, damp air.
“A strategic mistake,” Detry said.
Suh then skulled his 50-yard bunker shot over the green, into the practice area, and later conceded Detry’s 15-footer for birdie.
Illinois, which earned the top seed after NCAA stroke play in June, is ranked No. 2 in the country, after posting three wins in four fall starts. The Illini have four players ranked inside the top 65, but match play tends to level the playing field, especially in the 18-hole format.
“Everybody counts us out,” Healy said, “but we’re going to keep fighting. We like that go-for-broke system. We’re kind of a happy-go-lucky team, not a whole lot of stress, and we can just go out, be aggressive and let it rip.”