The No. 23 North Carolina men’s golf team got off to a rough start and could never quite recover, finishing in 10th place out of 12 teams at the ACC Championships over the weekend.
The team traveled to the Old North State Club in New London, N.C. for the tournament, which featured every men’s golf program in the conference. But despite the relatively short travel distance, the Tar Heels spluttered out of the gate.
Not a single UNC player managed to break par in round one. Austin Hitt was the closest, finishing with an even-par 72 with two birdies offsetting two bogies. Next best for the team was Ryan Gerard, who put up a two-over 74, followed by Ryan Burnett with a three-over 75. Josh Martin and Dougie Ergood both finished at 4-over for the round.
Those scores left the team in dead last after 18 holes, three shots behind Boston College in 11th place and 16 behind Duke in first. To put its struggles in perspective, Boston College is ranked 141 places behind UNC in the national rankings, according to Golfstat.
The team desperately needed a bounce back in round two, and they got one, to an extent. Gerard, Hitt, and Burnett all scored under par, posting 67, 71, and 70, respectively, to help the team claw its way back to a tie for 10th. Gerard in particular had an impressive turnaround, making six birdies, including three in a row on his final three holes, to finish at five-under for the round.
“For the guys to do what we did in round one but then refocus, reenergize and find something within themselves was great,” head coach Andrew DiBitetto said. “They were much better.”
The Tar Heels put up the third-best score of any team in round two, but still found themselves tied with Louisville near the bottom of the leaderboard heading into the final round.
After the second round showed promising signs, UNC stalled out again on the final day. Gerard and Hitt managed to put up a pair of one-under 71s, but the rest of the team continued to struggle, finishing a collective six-over on the day. That dropped its overall score to four-over for the weekend, enough to barely secure tenth place over Notre Dame by a single stroke.
“It was a disappointing week,” DiBitetto said. “It wasn’t the week we hoped for or expected but sometimes that’s what happens in our sport and you just have to learn what you can learn and move on.”
Who stood out?
Gerard was the team’s best performer for the weekend, finishing tied for 14th as an individual at four-under, while Hitt was in a tie for 18th at two-under. In truth, though, neither result will be looked back on with much joy for either player. Hitt came into the week ranked 32nd in the country as an individual, but never saw himself atop the leaderboard, while Gerard let a solid second round go to waste with sub-par performances in the other two.
In the team standings Georgia Tech cruised to the win, finishing 15 strokes ahead of Virginia in second place and a whopping 41 shots ahead of UNC.
When was it decided?
A brutal first day ended any realistic hopes of UNC winning the event and left even the highest scoring individuals well off the pace. Despite this, the team rallied to put up a solid score in round two, at least keeping things respectable. Unfortunately that momentum faded again in round three, and there was little to play for but pride on the final day for the Tar Heels.
Why does it matter?
Any team is going to want to perform well in its conference championship, so the stakes were fairly high coming into the weekend. It was also quite possibly the second-to-last tournament of the season for the team. The NCAA Regionals are next on the schedule, so it’ll have to play its way in there to qualify for the National Championships. The Tar Heels did not do a good job of building momentum into the postseason this weekend.
But DiBitetto says the team morale won’t be deflated.
“We didn’t play well but I don’t think there’s a single one of us that’s worried or concerned,” he said. “It’s not at all reflective of the strides and improvements we’ve made, especially this spring. Despite the result we feel good about where we are.”
Where do they play next?
The NCAA Regionals kick off on May 13 at a course that will be announced in the coming weeks.
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