NORTH MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. -- The top-seeded Duke women's golf team pulled out a dramatic 3-2 victory over sixth-seeded Georgia on Tuesday in the finals of the 2003 Hooters Collegiate Match Play Championship at the Barefoot Resort in North Myrtle Beach, S.C.
'It is match play and you never know what will happen,' said Duke Head Coach Dan Brooks. 'Georgia came into the match playing really well, but we stayed patient and came out on top at the end.'
The reigning U.S. Women's Amateur Champion, Virada Nirapathpongporn, birdied the final hole and then won on the first playoff hole to defeat Kelly Froelich, 1-up, to lead the Blue Devils to the victory. A senior from Bangkok, Thailand, Nirapathpongporn led Froelich, 2-up, through three holes, but Froelich came back to take the lead on the 10th hole.
Nirapathpongporn, who started the day off on hole 17, went down one on holes 14 and 15, before birding the 16th hole to send it in a playoff. On the par-5 16th, Nirapathpongporn had a great drive and then hit a 3-wood on to the green. She missed an eagle putt, but was able to sink the birdie to even the match.
'I really wanted to win the match today and I was very determined,' said Nirapathpongporn. 'Whatever way I had to win the match I was going to do it. On hole 16, I knew I needed a birdie and I was able to put together a great drive and 3-wood, which allowed me to have a good chance at an eagle.'
It came down to the par-3 17th for the playoff. Both golfers hit their tee shots into the hazard, but Nirapathpongporn was able to come back from 88 yards and stuck a wedge to about three feet and made bogey. Froelich couldn't make a 12-foot putt for bogey to give Nirapathpongporn the victory. In four matches in the competition, Nirapathpongporn won three and halved one other match.
'Going into the playoff hole, I knew that we needed to win this match for us to win the championship,' said Nirapathpongporn.
Fellow senior Leigh Anne Hardin dominated Natalia Nicholls over the final seven holes winning 5 & 4. Hardin, from Martinsville, Ind., trailed 1-up early, but from holes nine through 15 was able to go up by five. Also, collecting a victory on the day was freshman Anna Grzebien, which knocked off Lisa Tyler, 2-up. A product of Narragansett, R.I., Grzebien trailed for only one hole in the match and finished the championship winning her final three matches over Ohio State, UCLA and Georgia.
'Leigh Anne played great and she was very solid all week,' said Brooks. 'Anna came back yesterday to win her match and was able to control her match for most of the day today. They both came through with key victories today.'
Georgia's Allison Martin took an early lead and Blue Devil sophomore Liz Janangelo couldn't come back falling 3 & 2, while freshman Brittany Lang lost 2-up to Whitney Wade.
Duke will take the rest of the fall off before opening the spring season on Feb. 22-24 at the Lady Puerto Rico Classic in San Juan, Puerto Rico. The Blue Devils finished the fall season winning all five tournaments they played in for the first time in school history.
'It is nice to win and it gives you something to believe in,' said Brooks. 'When we come back in the spring, we will be a good team that is trying to get better. This sends you into the break still excited about golf and that is a good thing.'