After the ACC canceled the conference's men's golf season in the fall, North Carolina is gearing up to hit the course as a team for the first time in almost a year.
The Tar Heels' current schedule is set to span into the early months of the summer. No. 24 UNC will look to build on its success from last season, which was cut short due to the impacts of COVID-19.
After a big layoff following two tournament wins at the General Hackler Championship in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and the Turning Stone Tiger Intercollegiate in Verona, New York, the Tar Heels are primed to contend for national relevance this year under head coach Andrew DiBitetto.
DiBitetto has the talent to compete for the prize this season, returning all five of his starters from a strong 2019-20 campaign. The fourth-year coach has created a nice mix of young talent and experience that could lead the Tar Heels to big things this spring.
UNC added two talented young golfers during the offseason to complement its upperclassmen: first-years Peter Fountain — who won the North Carolina Amateur in June and shot a 4-under-par 68 in his first round as a Tar Heel — and Ryan Smith. The two are expected to compete for playing time immediately.
To go along with the new faces, leading the list of returners for UNC is senior Austin Hitt, who took advantage of the extra year of eligibility that was granted to spring-sport student-athletes last season as a result of the season being cut short. Hitt sits at sixth on the all-time list of best career stroke average at UNC (72.31), and he could climb the list even more as he leads the team into the new season.
Senior Ryan Gerard and junior Ryan Burnett top off a strong cast of returning starters, with Burnett taking home second-team All-America honors to go along with the lowest career stroke average in UNC history (71.45). Gerard also received an honorable mention All-America nod last season. The pair was also selected to represent UNC on the PING All-Region team.
The Tar Heels return two more key starters in sophomore Austin Greaser and junior Dougie Ergood, who have both been key contributors in their time in Chapel Hill. Rounding out the roster for UNC are senior Mason Elmore, junior Luis Castro, and sophomores George McNeely and Kenan Poole. This quartet should provide quality depth for the team which will be essential to competing throughout a season that will span months.
The Tar Heels will wrap up their first tournament of the season on Tuesday after three days of competition at the Camp Creek Seminole Invitational in Watersound, Florida. After the Invitational, the Tar Heels will get a break of nearly a month before the group's season heats up with the ACC Championships in late April and the NCAA Regionals and Championships in May and June.
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