CHAPEL HILL, N.C. – So much for a home-course advantage.
North Carolina found out the hard way Saturday that an inside track to to the NCAA finals only goes so far. It still needed to put together three good rounds.
Playing at home on Finley Golf Course, and only two shots off the cut line heading into the final round of qualifying, the Tar Heels shot 7-over 295 on the last day to finish eighth at the Chapel Hill regional.
The low five teams after 54 holes advance to the May 28-June 3 NCAA Championship.
“A little shocking, a little surprising that we didn’t play better,” coach Andrew Sapp said. “But golf is a fickle game.”
UNC was 11 shots back of fifth place at 6-over 870. It was only the third time this season the team has finished an event over par. In the fall, it won its home event by 23 shots.
Only one Tar Heel finished inside the top 20 individually, and that was freshman Will Register (T-13), who led after an opening 66. The other ballyhooed freshman, Ben Griffin, who grew up less than two miles from Finley GC and has played here more than anyone in the field, made a number of uncharacteristic mistakes and tied for 55th.
“It wasn’t for a lack of preparation,” Griffin said. “There’s definitely some high expectations to get through regionals, but my game just wasn’t where it needed to be this week.”
The proximity to a regional site didn't help fifth-seeded Wake Forest, either. The Demon Deacons, despite playing less than 90 minutes from campus, never challenged and wound up 10th.
No. 3 seed North Carolina was one of four host teams at this year’s regionals.
Prior to this year, 18 of the last 22 regional hosts had advanced to the NCAA finals. This year, both UNC and San Diego will miss out.
“Bad play, nerves, maybe being at home puts more pressure on you,” Sapp said. “We were as prepared as you could be, but we just played poorly at the wrong time.”