Playing behind sophomore David Ford during his record-tying second round of the Jackson T. Stephens Cup last week, senior teammate Austin Greaser was blown away.
“I swear, every time I looked up, he was making a putt,” Greaser said.
Ford earned the Jackson T. Stephens Cup individual title by four shots with an overall score of 16-under-par and 200 strokes. The sophomore finished round two 10-under-par in just 62 strokes, which tied the UNC record for strokes under par in a single round.
“I felt really good going into that day, and I felt like everything was going right out there on the course,” Ford said.
According to his coach, Andrew DiBitetto, the conditions – because "the greens were a bit receptive and the wind was pretty benign”– were perfect for Ford to have an attack-focused strategy to regularly putt in regulation.
Ford has been a standout since he began at UNC, earning the fourth-lowest stroke average ever by a Tar Heel and winning ACC Freshman of the Year last season. He has only built on these accomplishments so far this season. After his career-best outing at the Stephens Cup, DiBitetto thinks this is just the beginning for Ford and the rest of the Tar Heels.
“Now he’s broken through, picked up his first college win," DiBitetto said. "Hopefully that means that the lid is off and there’s many more to come."
DiBitetto added that the main progression in Ford's game over the past year has not been skill, but rather adjusting to the changes between junior and college golf tournaments.
For Ford, the biggest change this year is mental, and he said his first season helped him gain confidence in himself.
“Last year and especially last spring, I wasn’t believing in myself and in my golf game as much as I needed to,” Ford said. “I think self-belief has kind of gotten me and gotten my game to where I want to be."
In addition to tying the stroke-under-par record, Ford's round two score nearly broke the UNC single-round record of 61 strokes set by Ryan Gerard in 2018. Along with the win and record, Ford was a part of the team’s overall victory in match play, something Greaser said he had never experienced. Greaser tied for fourth and scored nine-under-par at 207 strokes.
According to Greaser, the match play victory was a goal that the whole team was proud of.
“For us to realize, ‘Hey, like we can do it in match play also,’ it kind of gets that monkey off our back a little bit,” he said.
The Tar Heels have one more tournament this semester – the Williams Cup in Wilmington, N.C., starting Oct. 21. The tournaments then pick back up again in February leading up to the ACC Championship in April. Despite the team’s recent victory, which DiBitetto noted was difficult to accomplish in itself, the team won’t be changing its mindset.
“Our guys are good at very quickly getting back home and getting back into their routines,” DiBitetto said. “So that’s exactly where we are already, and we leave in five days for the next one.”
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