Duke, Illinois, UGA take early leads at East Lake Cup

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ATLANTA – Duke would seem to have a comfortable lead over defending NCAA champion Stanford during the weather-delayed first round of the East Lake Cup.

Except Blue Devils coach Dan Brooks knows better. 

“I respect this game a lot,” he said Monday night, “and I know how match play can be. We need to come out awake and ready to play.”

Duke already has one point on the board, courtesy of Gurbani Singh, and leads by two holes in two of the other matches. Reigning Player of the Year Leona Maguire is one of those players who has a late lead, taking a 2-up advantage over Stanford All-American Lauren Kim into the final four holes. The first team to three points wins. 

“It’s going to be a tough match all the way to the finish,” Maguire said.

Only three of the 20 first-round matches have been completed at the inaugural East Lake Cup, which pits the semifinalists from last year’s NCAA Championship.   

The first round was delayed by four hours because of heavy rain. Play will resume at 7:30 a.m. Tuesday. The championship and consolation matches are scheduled to begin off split tees at 11:30 a.m., barring another delay.

In the other women’s match, No. 1-ranked Southern Cal leads Baylor, 2-1-2. Kyung Kim delivered the first point for the Trojans, and Robynn Ree appears on her way to another victory with a 3-up lead with five to play. 

Reigning NCAA men’s champion LSU has plenty of work to do if it wants to avoid dropping into the consolation bracket. 

Georgia earned one point (after Jaime Lopez Rivarola’s 7-and-5 victory) against the Tigers and has at least a 2-up lead in two matches that have already made the turn. 

“We’ve still got a back nine to go,” Bulldogs coach Chris Haack said. “A lot can happen.” 

Illinois leads the other first-round matchup, 4-0-1, over Southern Cal, but the Illini leads by only one hole in all four matches. In the day's best matchup, sophomore Nick Hardy sank a 5-foot par putt in near darkness to take the lead over USC's Sean Crocker heading into the back nine.