After coming off a sixth-place finish in the ASU Thunderbird Collegiate, the No. 16 North Carolina men’s golf team is preparing to compete in the ACC Championship in Milton, Georgia.
The Tar Heels have had an impressive season thus far, finishing in the top-five in five out of six outings. Despite their successful season, the road ahead will be a bumpy one. Some of the best teams in the country are in the ACC, and if UNC wants to advance through this tournament, the team will need to play up to its potential.
The ACC Tournament is packed with powerhouse teams, 10 of them being featured in Golfstat’s top-25 rankings. Despite UNC's top-25 billing, it has to face No. 2 Florida State, No. 4 Clemson, No. 6 Wake Forest and No. 8 N.C State. The Tar Heels have fallen to all of these teams this season, and have an uphill battle ahead if they plan to take the victory.
Florida State has proven to be a formidable opponent, as the No. 2 Seminoles have clinched three tournaments this season. UNC has yet to beat Florida State this season, and the Seminoles are going into the ACC Tournament with lots of momentum.
North Carolina has also yet to defeat Wake Forest this season. One of Wake Forest’s golfers — Alex Fitzpatrick — is ranked fifth in the nation by Golfstat, and the Demon Deacons have three tournament wins under their belts heading into the ACC Championship.
Clemson also looks to be a challenging opponent for the Tar Heels. The Tigers have three tournament wins, are ranked above UNC both nationally and in the ACC, and have two individual golfers ranked in the top-30.
However, UNC did manage to defeat N.C. State in the I-40 Cup at the Carolina Country Club in early April. The Tar Heels scraped by the Wolfpack, winning six matches to N.C. State's four. North Carolina has proven that it has the ability to play with highly-ranked teams and come out on top, so as long as the Tar Heels bring the fire that they took to the I-40 Cup, they have a chance to go far in the championship.
Despite the odds being stacked against North Carolina, the Tar Heels have a few standout players of their own.
Senior Austin Hitt has had an exceptional career at UNC and could bring several more victories to the Tar Heels in the ACC Tournament. He has been an essential element of many of the Tar Heels’ wins this season and had the sixth-best stroke average in North Carolina men’s golf history entering the season, along with 11 top-10 finishes to his name.
First-year Peter Fountain has also been instrumental to the team’s success this year. His four-stroke win in individual competition at the Tar Heel Intercollegiate at Finley Golf Course helped lead North Carolina to victory.
The odds are certainly not in the favor of UNC headed into this tournament, but not all hope is lost.
If the team can bring the same energy and precision that it had in the I-40 Cup, the ASU Thunderbird Collegiate Tournament or the Tar Heel Intercollegiate, the Tar Heels might stand a chance against some of the best teams in the country.