University of North Carolina fifth-year senior Ryan Gerard birdied the 17th and 18th holes on Sunday to win by two strokes and lead the Tar Heels to the team title at the Rod Myers Invitational hosted by Duke at the Duke University Golf Club.
It was the first career collegiate title for Gerard, who attended Ravenscoft High School in Raleigh. It was also the eighth team title in Andrew DiBitetto‘s five seasons as UNC’s head coach.
The Tar Heels entered the third round with an eight-shot lead over NC State, but the Wofpack surged ahead midway through the round, with the Pack at 25 under and UNC two strokes behind. Carolina quickly regained the lead, then held on for the title by making five birdies – two by Gerard and one each by Peter Fountain, David Ford and Austin Greaser – over the final three holes.
Carolina finished 27-under 837 to beat NC State by three shots. The 27-under total is the second-lowest score to par in tournament history. The host Blue Devils were third at 8 under, UNCG was fourth at 7 under and North Florida was fifth in the 14-team field at 6 under.
Gerard was tied for the lead after an opening-round 67 and shot 66 in the second round to lead NC State’s Maximilian Steinlechner by two strokes after 36 holes. Steinlechner tied Gerard for the lead on the eighth hole today and they remained deadlocked at the top of the leader board through the 12th hole.
The 13th hole proved to be a three-shot swing as Gerard birdied the par 4, while Steinlechner made a double bogey. Steinlechner made birdies on the 14th and 16th holes to pull within a shot and drained a 40-foot putt on 17 to pull even at 13 under par.
Gerard then made a 20-footer of his own on the 17th to regain a one-shot advantage. On the 18th hole, Gerard hit his approach to five feet and made the birdie putt for the two-shot victory.
“Max made a long one on 17 and I was thinking, ‘Man, what does it take to win one of these things,'” says Gerard. “I knew he tied me and I knew it was pretty close teamwise. I just hit the best putt I could and it went right in the center and my boys were there for me and we were screaming and having a good time. It was a lot of fun down the stretch.”
Gerard’s 15-under 201 total (67-66-68) matched the lowest score in tournament history. His 15-under-par total ties the fifth best in UNC history and his 201 total equals the seventh best.
“I’m super proud of Ryan, very happy for him,” says DiBitetto. “Every time I looked back he just looked cool, calm, collected. Max (Steinlechner) made a big putt on 17 and Ryan gets up and drills it right behind him. On 18, he pipes his drive down the middle, hits (his approach) it absolutely perfect, just long and right and makes the putt. Very composed, very clutch. A big-time win for him.”
Gerard’s previous best collegiate finish was runner-up at the 2018 Fighting Irish Classic at Notre Dame and the 2020 John Burns Intercollegiate in Hawai’i. His previous low score to par was -14 at Notre Dame, which included a 10-under-par 61 to set UNC’s 18-hole scoring record.
Gerard led the field at Duke in birdies with 19 and in scoring on par 4s at 12 under, which was six shots better than any player.
He was one of three Tar Heels to finish in the top eight and four in the top 13.
Freshman David Ford was seventh at 5-under 211 (70-68-73) in his collegiate debut, sophomore Peter Fountain tied for eighth at 4-under 212 (69-72-71) and junior Austin Greaser tied for 13th at 3-under 213 (68-71-74). Junior George McNeely tied for 38th.
Dougie Ergood, playing as an individual entry, tied for 16th at 2-under 214.
Carolina’s 837 total tied the 10th best in school history.
“Obviously a really good start to the year,” says DiBitetto. “Proud of our guys. Yesterday was a really good day. We played well from start to finish and got off to a really big lead coming into the final round. Winning in our sport is hard. You always know you are going to face adversity and that came today on the back nine. At one point we were two or three shots behind. We’ve built this thing where our guys just understand composure, they understand patience, they understand what to do when the adversity hits. Our guys were great, they executed down the stretch and came out with two wins.”
The Tar Heels return to competition September 17-19 at the Olympia Fields Fighting Illini Invitational.
— to goheels.com