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The Daily Tar Heel

Spring Sports - Big Things Expected From Freshman Golfers

Combine these factors, and the 2001 spring season has all the makings of a proverbial "rebuilding" year for North Carolina's men's golfers. There's just one problem.

They don't want to wait until next year.

Last spring, North Carolina struggled, failing to win a single tournament. But the team peaked at the right time.

Carried by the gritty play of seniors Max Harris and Brad Tyler, the team finished strong, placing 10th at the NCAA Championships in Opelika, Ala.

Harris and Tyler have since traded their drivers for diplomas, leaving two pressing questions: Is there enough talent left on this team for an encore performance? If so, are they battle-tested enough to compete with top teams like Clemson and Georgia Tech?

By and large, UNC coach John Inman says yes.

"We are not afraid of these teams," the third-year coach said. "We are very competitive and can compete with these guys."

Much of the pressure of ensuring the team's success lies squarely on the lean frame of newcomer Dustin Bray.

Bray, a freshman from Asheboro, immediately cracked the UNC starting lineup last fall and currently holds the team's No. 1 position. Bray competed in all five of North Carolina's fall tournaments, leading the Tar Heels in scoring four times and managing to finish in the top 20 three times.

While Bray is the most celebrated recruit to hit the links at Finley Golf Course this spring, he's not the only freshman from whom big things are expected.

First-year Tar Heels Matt Crenshaw and Richard Treis also have fall tournament experience and are expected to compete for spots in the starting lineup.

With all of the focus on the newcomers, Inman said it is easy to lose sight of the importance of the returning players.

"We have four seniors this year and some younger guys who are not only providing leadership, but are also playing very well," he said.

Among those seniors are Rob Simmons and Johno Harris. Simmons competed in seven tournaments last spring and posted a 68 in the final round of Fall 2000's Golf World/Palmetto Dunes Collegiate.

At the same tournament, Harris shot a second-round 69, solidifying his bid for a starting spot.

Hopes are also high for Ramon Bescansa, a sophomore Spaniard who has played with the likes of Sergio Garcia. Bescansa finished in 13th place at the Duke Golf Classic in September. He downplayed the inexperience of this year's Tar Heel team.

"The first tournament of the first semester is really hard, but we've all played competitive junior golf," Bescansa said.

"The competition is at a (higher) level in college, but at the same time we're just getting better and better."

To an extent, his coach agrees.

"The team has a lot of different makeup this year, but obviously year-to-year it is going to change," Inman said. "These are young men who have played national and international competitions throughout their junior careers.

"We look for young men who will be prepared the day they step on this campus. We're excited."

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