Day two, however, saw only three players break 80. Sophomore Brynn Walker came in with the lowest score, firing a four-over 75, while Ocano posted 76 and Bergner struggled to a 78. As a team, the Tar Heels dropped to 11th and sat 24 strokes back of first place.
The third and final day was a special one for Ocano, as she played nearly mistake-free golf on her way to a one-under par 70. It was a career best for the sophomore, and only the second under-par round in her career, the other coming earlier this season when she shot a one-under 71 at the Ruth’s Chris Tar Heel Invitational.
The fine round included a clutch eight-foot par putt on the final hole to ensure her team beat South Carolina by one stroke, clinching seventh place for North Carolina with a total score of 46-over par.
“It was a pretty good putt for a par,” head coach Jan Mann said after the round. “She just stepped up there and drilled it.”
The seventh-place finish meant that unranked UNC had finished ahead of four teams ranked in Golfstat’s top 25: No. 6 Arizona State, No. 8 South Carolina, No. 14 Oklahoma State, and No. 17 Virginia.
Who stood out?
For the Tar Heels, Ocano was the best finisher, placing tied for 11th on the overall leaderboard with a score of 6-over for the week. It was the second best overall finish of her career, behind only a fourth-placed finish at last season’s River Landing Classic.
“We are really excited for her to break through and have a strong tournament,” head coach Jan Mann said after the tournament. “We absolutely knew she was capable. The only thing that was getting in her way was her mental game, and she made the decision for this event to strictly have no mechanical thoughts whatsoever and focus on things she could control emotionally and mentally, and she just did a great job.”
Overall, Arkansas’ Maria Fassi took first place for the individual honors with a score of three-under for the week, while Alabama finished first as a team with a score of 14-over.
When was it decided?
UNC staged a comeback on the final day, rising four spots from 11th to seventh, while other teams around them fell. In the end, the final position of the team was only decided when Ocano knocked down a nervy par putt on the final hole.
Alabama held the team lead for the entire week and never looked like giving it up, while on the individual side Fassi hopped from third to first on the final day with a stellar two-under 69.
Why does it matter?
The tournament provided one of UNC’s stiffest tests to date this season with the ACC Championships looming on the horizon.
“This is probably one of the strongest fields we will have before the NCAAs,” Mann said.
UNC can take some positives away from the week after hanging with some of the best teams in the country, and will be looking to close out the regular season strongly.
Where do they play next?
The team has eight days off before traveling to Utah to tee it up at BYU in the Entrada Classic on March 12th.
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