The Tigers fell back to 10 strokes behind the Blue Devils on the back nine at the Sunriver Resort's Meadows course, but cut the final margin to six strokes to finish third, one shot behind defending national champion UCLA, which made a late move on Friday to take second place. The Bruins began the day in third, one shot behind Auburn.
Sophomore Nicole Hage, playing in her first NCAA Championship, finished in fifth place with a five-over-par 289 to earn All-America honors for Auburn. She finished the fourth and final round with an even par 71.
"Nicole played great golf the whole week," says Auburn coach Kim Evans. "We were playing for first place and we didn't get that, but I am very proud of this team. We competed hard the whole tournament.
"When we cut the lead to four on the eighth hole, we probably were trying too hard to make things happen after that and that might have hurt us, especially considering how difficult the weather conditions were with the cold and the rain. It even hailed during the round."
Hage finished the day with three birdies, three bogeys and 12 pars. She had rounds of 73, 75 and 70 the first three days.
The only senior in Auburn's lineup, Diana Ramage, also earned All-America honors. She finished with a 293 total, which put her in a tie for 12th place. Ramage was tied for the tournament lead at the halfway point.
Evans had praise for the play of Ramage, who competed with a sore wrist in the damp and cold conditions. The coach says the All-American is a tough competitor. "It was something that really bothered her when she had to hit out of the heavy rough," Evans notes. "That was painful for her."
Junior Maria Martinez was three shots back at 296 in a tie for 16th after she shot a 74 on Friday.
Freshman Abigale Schepperle had a rough final day and dropped from 25th place to 68th with a 304 total after she shot an 81 on Friday. She started the round with seven straight pars as Auburn made its comeback. However, she finished the front nine with back-to-back bogeys and then posted a nine on a par five to start the back nine.
Freshman Margaret Shirley had a 77 on the final day to finish in a tie for 98th at 310. She turned at plus four, but a birdie on the par four 11th dropped her to plus three. However, she lost three more strokes to par with a bogey and a double bogey on the back nine.
If one of the freshmen had put close to an even par round on the scoreboard, the Tigers would have pushed Duke to the final putt with the Blue Devils shooting a 297, 19 shots off their impressive day three round. However, Evans says she believes Schepperle and Shirley did some good things during the four days of competition and they help make the future bright for the AU team. "I thought the tournament was a great experience for those two," the coach says.
Auburn shot a 295 on Friday after rounds of 290, 296 and 295 the first three days.
Duke shot rounds of 292, 303, 278 and 297.
UCLA caught Auburn by shooting a 293 on Friday after going 288, 302 and 292 the first three days.
Pepperdine, which was tied with Auburn at the halfway point of the 72-hole tournament, finished fourth at plus 43, nine shots off the pace. Cal was fifth at plus 44, Tennessee and Ohio State were at plus 51, Arizona State and Oklahoma State tied for eighth at plus 54 and Florida was 10th at plus 59.
No player finished the event under par with tough pin placements, wind, rain and cold weather making the course a serious challenge. Duke's Anna Grzebein was the low scorer at two-over-par.
The third place showing was the best for the Tigers since they took second place in the 2002 NCAA Championship held in Auburn, Wash.