Current Date: Sun, 09 Mar 2014 19:35:58 -0400
When he took over a middling North Carolina men’s golf program in 2011, coach Andrew Sapp had a simple formula in mind to rejuvenate the sagging Tar Heels.
“I wasn’t reinventing the wheel,” said Sapp, a UNC graduate and architect of decorated golf programs at Michigan and Purdue. “I basically did the same thing that I’ve done in 20 years of coaching, trying to help our guys develop, improve and become one of the best teams in the country.”
UNC hasn’t made it to that pantheon just yet. The team advanced to the 2013 NCAA regionals in Tempe, Ariz., but fell woefully short of nationals.
Michael McGowan and Patrick Barrett, the standouts who helped carry UNC to Tempe, have graduated. The ACC, which sent nine teams to the 2013 regionals, remains a punishing conference, as deep as they come in college golf, Sapp said.
The task stays just as burdensome. But so does the goal, Sapp said, of advancing to the national championships. So, too, does the formula, which faces its first exam this weekend at UNC’s first tournament of 2013-14, the Carpet Capital Collegiate in Georgia.
“He definitely turned the program around,” said junior Brandon Dalinka of Sapp. “Before he got here, there wasn’t much structure.”
With that structure, the unofficial gospel of any competitive golfer, comes diligent practicing and more analysis of stats to pinpoint avenues of improvement. It also demands more from the Tar Heels, pitting UNC against competition as stiff as a flagstick.
“He always says, ‘In order to be one of the top teams, you got to play against the top teams,’” Dalinka said of Sapp. “We have the opportunity to do that.”
Sapp will lean on Dalinka, a mainstay in UNC’s main rotation in 2012-13, as well as whoever emerges from the crucible of team qualifying. Dalinka and transfer Andy Sajevic said vying for one of five precious spots in the team’s tournament lineup would help brace the team for more rigorous competitions.
UNC’s team qualifying even has room for a trio of talented freshmen, one of whom, Henry Do, will tee up for the Tar Heels this weekend. With Do and fellow rookies Davis Bateman and Zachary Martin restocking the team’s shelves, Sapp said there’s ample reason to be optimistic about the future.
“The way the program is going, it’s going in the direction that I had hoped when I took the job,” Sapp said.
The turnaround isn’t complete, but it’s getting there. It’s all part of the formula.