Greensboro, N.C. — After all the rabid storms raced across the state on Saturday, the skies were a bright Carolina Blue for Sunday’s final round at Sedgefield Country Club and the Tar Heels were victorious in their quest for the Atlantic Coast Conference Championship, their first since 1992. Carolina finished with a 23-over-par 875 total, 24 strokes ahead of runner-up Duke on the par 71, 6,181-yard layout. Carolina’s Allie White was the runner-up in the individual race as four Tar Heels finished in the top 10.
“We had a great fall and our spring was very up and down, said Tar Heel head coach Jan Mann. “I knew we had an extremely talented team and I knew that we would have to play exceptionally well. To be honest, I did not think we would win the tournament by this large of a margin. We have some great teams in the ACC and they always perform well. For our team to come out and play as they did was pretty special.”
Carolina led throughout the tournament and held a 24-stroke lead going into Sunday’s final round. The Tar Heels played very solid golf for the first half of the round, finishing the front nine at 2-over, better than any other team. Scores were a bit higher on the back nine, but Carolina’s lead by that point was insurmountable and the Tar Heels maintained the 24-stroke margin they held at the beginning of the day.
It was truly a team effort as four Tar Heels carded top-10 finishes. They were led by junior Allie White who was tied with Wake Forest’s Cheyenne Woods for the individual lead entering the final round. Woods won the individual trophy with a 3-under 68 as White, from Lancaster, Ohio, carded a 4-over 75 and was the runner-up with a 2-over 215 total. She suffered a double-bogey on the final hole, but a few moments later she was as jubilant as a five-year-old on Christmas morning.
Another junior, Catherine O’Donnell, also fired a 4-over 75 on Sunday. O’Donnell, from Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., finished two strokes behind White in third place at 4-over 217. Katherine Perry, a freshman from Cary, N.C., tallied an 8-over 221 total to finish alone in sixth place after carding a 6-over 77 on Sunday. It was another freshman, Casey Grice, who led the Tar Heels in the final round. Grice, from College Station, Texas, fired a 2-over 73 to finish tied for seventh place at 9-over 222. Jackie Chang, a freshman from Paradise Valley, Ariz., tied for 21st place at 232 after posting a 7-over 78 on Sunday.
After a topsy-turvy spring spring campaign, the Tar Heels played very solid golf, grabbed the lead and never looked back. Perry summed it up after it was all over, “We came in here and said we were going to play as good as we could and see where that placed us and I can’t believe we won the ACC Championship. It’s surreal right now. It’s a dream come true. We just played really smart the whole tournament. We didn’t go for pins. We played it safe and I think that made the difference for us.”
Once the Tar Heels took the lead on Friday, they never looked back. Their 16-over 300 final round solidified the win for a 23-over 875 total. Duke also shot a 16-over 300 on Sunday to find itself in second place at 47-over 899. Virginia finished in third place at 903 and Wake Forest was fourth at 904. Florida State claimed fifth place with a 911 total and Maryland finished sixth at 930. NC State placed seventh at 937, Miami was one back at 938 in eighth place and Boston College was ninth at 967.
Woods of Wake Forest claimed the individual trophy with her flawless play in the final round. Woods, who posted three birdies in her bogey-free final round, ended at 5-under 208. Carolina’s White finished second at 2-over 215 and Carolina’s O’Donnell finished third at 4-over 217. Lindy Duncan of Duke tallied a fourth-place at 6-over 219 while Jessie Hollandsworth of Maryland placed fifth at 7-over 220 and Perry of North Carolina was sixth at 8-over 221. There was a three-way tie for seventh at 9-over 222 between Carolina’s Grice, Virginia’s Brittany Altomare and Florida State’s Macarena Silva. Completing the top-10 individuals was Nicole Agnello of Virginia at 11-over 224.
Although Carolina grabbed the lead at the outset, the Tar Heels really made their move on the second day which included a three-hour weather delay and umbrellas going up and down throughout play.
“I can’t explain that day,” said Mann, in her second year at the helm. “We played unbelievable golf. The conditions were tough and we didn’t even think we were going to play. We were actually looking at what movie we were going to go watch. We had them staying very confident and in their process of one shot at a time and they did it. They came through.
“Before each round we had our target where we wanted to hit in on the greens and they stuck with that and trusted it,” continued Mann. “Another thing that really helped us around the greens was I don’t know whether we hit any wedges at all. We were using our putters and hybrids around the greens. That’s what Donald Ross wants and that’s what we did.”
After it was all said and done and Mann was being interviewed, her players snuck up behind her and drenched her with water. They did rescue her phone, however, and that’s a good thing. It’s probably loaded with lots of congratulatory emails and texts by now.