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Register shoots speedy 66 for early lead in Chapel Hill

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – North Carolina freshman Will Register instituted a new rule after a second-round 70 at last month’s ACC Championship.

From that point forward, he was forcing assistant coach Andrew DiBitetto to walk alongside him for the entirety of his round, at least until he shot over par. 

Well, they’re still together, because after a strong final round gave Register a top-15 finish at ACCs, he opened NCAA regionals here with a 6-under 66 for a one-shot lead in the individual race. As a team, host North Carolina is fifth, after an opening score of 2-under 286.

“He doesn’t like to think,” DiBitetto said, “so my job is to get his mind off golf. I’ll give him one or two words of information, not an overload. And then for him, it’s rapid fire.”

No kidding. The most noticeable part of Register’s game is that he plays fast, really fast, which tends to set him apart from a group that is known for lollygagging. 

So, as an experiment, we timed Register on the par-5 13th hole. 

Only 11.6 seconds elapsed from the time he put the tee in the ground to when he made contact with the ball. One of his fellow playing competitors needed 35.2 seconds.

For the second shot, he needed 12.2 seconds to pull a club and then send his fairway-wood shot about 30 feet away from the flag. His opponent required 26.3 seconds. 

And then on the green, he gave his eagle try two extra looks and still was 12 seconds quicker (16.1) than his next-fastest playing competitor.

DiBitetto smiled. “He’s a point-and-shoot kind of guy.” 

Register didn’t have an answer for why he’s become such a fast player, offering only that, “I feel like I do better if I don’t think about it.”

There’s an added benefit to keeping DiBitetto around: Not only is there always someone to talk to and keep him from getting too antcy, but the coach is a heck of a green-reader, too. On the 11th hole Thursday, Register was about to step in when he asked DiBitetto for confirmation that it was a right-to-left-breaking putt.

Uh, no. DiBitetto said to play the ball on the left edge, and Register hearted the putt in the center. 

“When he makes putts,” DiBitetto said, “he can win almost every tournament.” 

Register has won twice this season, including a record-breaking performance at the Primland Collegiate Invitational where he shot a school-record 17 under, and also carded nine top 20s. 

The 66 he shot Thursday matched his career low at UNC’s home course. He fired the previous low as recently as three days ago, during the run-up to regionals.

“Good timing,” he said.