It still hasn’t settled in.
UNC sophomore golfer Ryan Gerard shot the best round in UNC history on Monday. Not only that, he set the tournament record for score and strokes against par in a round. Becoming the third UNC player to shoot under 200 in a 54-hole event was just the icing on the cake.
In his final round of the team’s tournament at the Notre Dame Fighting Irish Classic, Gerard shot a 10-under-par 61, ending at 199 and placing second out of 84 total golfers.
Just the day before, he reached his career-best of 65 in the first round.
“Shooting my college career best of 65 was pretty cool, and then the 61 was incredible," Gerard said. "It’s still just unbelievable. I can’t really comprehend what I did, but it was awesome. I knew I had the capability, but it wasn’t expected.”
In the third round, Gerard’s mind was far from the record he was about to break — he didn’t even know what it was. His mind was on that moment, standing on the green, focusing on his next shot.
“I was focused on trying to help the team as much as I could,” Gerard said. “I figured I had something special going on, but I was really trying to keep myself in the moment and take things one shot at a time. I know from past experience once you start thinking in the future, that’s when stuff starts to unravel.”
It didn’t hurt to have assistant coach Matt Clark walking with him and helping him stay focused. It also didn’t hurt having teammate and former roommate Mason Elmore cheering for him loudly in the stands during his shocking third round.
“My teammates were going crazy,” Gerard said. “I saw where the scores were and I knew it was getting pretty ridiculous at that point, so it was really cool that they supported me.”
Gerard was the top finisher for the Tar Heels, who placed third out of 15 teams with an 821 total. First-year Ryan Burnett tied for 7th overall with a 203 total, while junior Austin Hitt tied for 15th with a 207. Senior Preyer Fountain and first-year Dougie Ergood earned totals of 212 and 219, respectively.
The Warren Golf Course was a special one — the U.S. Senior Open will be held there in 2019.
The Tar Heels prepared for the course with the help of athletic director Bubba Cunningham, who helped plan and build the course. He advised them not to miss left or right, but to miss short — advice Gerard used to help him be accurate in the tournament.
“It was a tough golf course,” Gerard said. “I got a chance to play the course in late July, and there were a couple guys that were playing in the U.S. Senior Open playing a practice round at the same time. It was cool to see the way they were going about and their preparation for it.”
On his 14th hole, Gerard hit an 8-iron from about 195 yards to about four feet straight up the hill.
“That was when I thought, wow, this is a pretty good round so let’s try to finish strong,” Gerard said. “The wheels got a little shaky towards the end, but I held on and closed it out.”
Coming off a disappointing second round with a 73 after a 65 in the first round, Gerard used something he can’t stand as his motivation.
“I really hate losing,” Gerard emphasized. “I know it’s hard to say as a golfer, because you lose almost all the time. But I really hate losing, and I’m motivated to win but also to not lose.”
Although Gerard is a record breaker, he’s even more of a team player, which is why all that was on his mind in the third round was winning for his team.
“I see myself as a leader on the team whether it be by example or just trying to help people,” Gerard said. “But I think each individual on our team are leaders in their own right. We have really good team members that lead each other well and make each individual player get better in our academic and athletic careers.”
The Tar Heels will try to win again in their upcoming tournament, the Royal Oaks Intercollegiate in Dallas on Oct. 22 and 23. It will be their last tournament before their spring season picks up in February.
In the meantime, there will be plenty of chipping and putting competitions between Gerard and his competitive teammates.
Maybe soon it will finally settle in.
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