Though the production of those seniors will be gone, the culture they established will live on through their returning teammates, including junior Austin Hitt and sophomore Ryan Gerard.
“It’s still that way today, and I think we have even more guys on board,” DiBitetto said last year. “Austin Hitt is someone who’s extremely competitive, Ryan Gerard is really really competitive, and it’s kind of cool to see the battles and even some of the jawing that goes back and forth amongst everyone on our team.”
That culture of intensity drives an incessant desire to improve and outdo your teammates. This constant competition will be crucial for UNC’s hopes to replicate last year’s success.
Hitt and Gerard had successful seasons in their own right last year, and both came in strong last spring. One of the two finished as the top Tar Heel in half of North Carolina’s eight spring tournaments. That includes Hitt’s third-place finish at the NCAA Regional in Kissimmee, Fla., which was the best ever for a Tar Heel in an NCAA regional.
There’s also senior Joshua Martin, who was named PING honorable mention All-America in 2018 and won the Carolinas Amateur this summer.
But after losing its top three golfers, UNC will need to see continual improvement from Hitt, Gerard and Martin as well as production from its first-years.
Those first-years are Ryan Burnett, Luis Castro and Doug Ergood, and they make up the Tar Heels' signing class.
Burnett is the most likely to come in and make an immediate impact. He won the Northern California High School championship as a sophomore and was named a second-team Rolex All-America in 2017.
The Tar Heels, ranked 22nd in the preseason GCAA coaches' poll, begin their season this weekend in the Rod Myers Invitational hosted by Duke University. The tournament is the first of five fall tournaments, three of which are packed into the month of September.
The fall season, though still official, serves as more of a prelude to the spring, in which the ACC and NCAA Championships are contested. Last fall, either Register or Griffin was the top Tar Heel finisher in every event.
This season as the newcomers adjust to college competition and prepare for a successful spring, Gerard and Hitt will need to step into leadership roles to enjoy similar results as last year's squad.
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