Trouble in paradise for Tar Heel golfers

mcgowan

North Carolina men’s golf coach Andrew Sapp wants his team to forget.

Forget the 12th place finish in the Puerto Rico Classic that showed the rust of a team that hadn’t played since October.

Forget the erratic tee shots and unsure swings that haunted his team throughout their three days in Puerto Rico.

But forgetting isn’t always easy for a golfer, Sapp said.

“You have to try to put it behind you,” Sapp said in a phone interview before his team boarded a plane to Chapel Hill. “You don’t expect to have amnesia and forget the bad habits, and remember the things you’ve done well.

“I think the problem you have when your players play poorly, oftentimes they focus on the bad things and don’t think about some of the good things.”

As a team, the Tar Heels couldn’t boast many positives. After collectively firing three-over-par in the first round Sunday and sitting in seventh place, UNC quickly tumbled down the leaderboard to 10th by the end of the second round.

The team cratered in the final round Tuesday, posting the highest team score of the day in a round that Sapp called “embarrassing.”

“Some bad shots on holes with a lot of water and trouble cost us a bunch today,” Sapp said.

Senior Michael McGowan authored his team’s best individual performance, finishing two-under-par and T-16th. Only one other Tar Heel — Bailey Patrick (two-over-par) — placed within the top 50 individual leaders.

McGowan said he saw a lot of hesitant swings, which made the Tar Heels’ February trip to Puerto Rico far from relaxing.

The senior standout seemed poised to creep up the leaderboard after birdies on three of his first four holes Tuesday. But after dropping a shot on his seventh hole, McGowan fell victim to the same struggles that ailed his teammates.

“When you get off to a good start, you expect to keep going with that,” McGowan said. “I made a terrible bogey and I just never got it back.”

Sapp said the layout at Rio Mar Country Club was “very penal.” The course seemed particularly punitive for the Tar Heels, whose accuracy betrayed them as the tournament wore on.

“This is a golf course that can eat you alive if you’re not hitting the ball well, and it ate some of our guys today,” Sapp said.

Safely out of the belly of the Rio Mar beast, McGowan tasked his team and himself with correcting the mistakes that led them astray in Puerto Rico.

“Start more with the basics,” McGowan said on improving the Tar Heels’ play. “I know everyone could have played much better, and everyone has to figure that out once we start practicing.”

For Sapp, moving forward begins with forgetting memories — and to him, that shouldn’t be difficult.

“It’s the first tournament of the spring. We haven’t competed in a while. We need to play a lot better than we did,” Sapp said.

“Hopefully we’ll put this one behind us and improve in our next tournament.”

Contact the desk editor at sports@dailytarheel.com.

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