UNC women's golfers lip out at ACC Championship

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Katherine Perry, a junior, tied with teammate Cacey Grice in 12th place for the best finish by a UNC golfer.

Katherine Perry’s team had just played itself out of contention at the ACC Championship.

The junior didn’t see that as a reason to be dispirited.

Perry and her fellow North Carolina women’s golfers drowned a rough day on a brutal course with laughter and a few slices of pizza.

Well on their way to a tie for fifth, the Tar Heels didn’t want to marinate in the misery of their first two rounds during their final 18 holes Sunday in Greensboro.

“Our big thing going into the third round was to just have fun with it and play for fun,” Perry said by phone Sunday night.

UNC salvaged a respectable tournament out of the rubble of their first two rounds with a more stable — and easygoing — final round. Perry and junior Casey Grice claimed top-15 individual honors as UNC watched No. 3 Duke coast to its second consecutive conference title.

“We were all disappointed in how we played,” coach Jan Mann said. “We’re a much better team than the results from this weekend.”

The No. 11 Tar Heels met their match in Sedgefield Country Club, the annual host of the conference championship and a PGA Tour event. Swirling winds and devilish hole locations that offered minimal room for error stymied UNC through two rounds.

“It was a fair layout — everyone was playing the same golf course — but it was extremely difficult, especially with the wind,” Perry said. “The greens were really firm. It made it difficult to get close to pins. It just wasn’t our weekend.”

By Saturday afternoon, the Tar Heels sat in sixth place, the top of the leaderboard having left them far behind — a result, their coach said, of succumbing to frustration.

“In the first two rounds, they were probably trying too hard,” Mann said. “What we addressed them with after the second day was that they definitely have to grind in these kinds of conditions, but at the same time, they gotta stay positive and have fun.”

With a relaxed approach, UNC received steadier rounds from all five of its players Sunday and squeezed into a share of fifth with Miami — 42 strokes short of Duke’s winning score.

“We went out with the idea today that regardless of the conditions, regardless of how they were playing, they were going to stay upbeat,” Mann said. “If they saw a teammate throughout the round, they were going to encourage them. They did a good job of that.”

Perry traced the positive vibes back to her team’s outing after Saturday’s round. They traded jokes in an effort to lighten the mood.

It wasn’t enough to diminish the sting of the Tar Heels’ Greensboro flop. But with NCAA regionals looming in several weeks, along with heightened pressure, Perry hopes her team learned its lesson this weekend.

“That’s our game plan — just enjoy it while we’re out there, enjoy the moment,” Perry said of her team’s newfound philosophy. “When something goes wrong, it helps to be lighthearted, and that’s what we’re going to try to do.”

Contact the desk editor at sports@dailytarheel.com.

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