Former Tar Heel golfer Andrew Sapp is in his fifth season as the head coach at the University of North Carolina, his 13th in the UNC men’s golf program and 14th as a Division I head coach.
Sapp was the head men’s golf coach at the University of Michigan for nine seasons prior to assuming that same position at UNC prior to 2011-12.
“Carolina has everything a coach and golfer need to be successful both academically and competitively,” says Sapp, the eighth head coach in UNC history. “We have incredible practice facilities, a beautiful and challenging on-campus course, world-class academics, and a dynamic community in a state that cherishes the game of golf. We’ve been fortunate to attract a number of top players because Carolina remains special in so many ways.
“Last season, we were successful in reaching a number of our goals, such as winning multiple tournaments and being ranked in the top 20. This season we want to continue to improve and make an impact in our conference and nationally. We have experienced players returning and an exciting freshman class and we hope to accomplish special things this year.”
Sapp’s UNC teams have won six tournaments and six players have won eight individual titles. The Tar Heels won three times in 2014-15, the most in a season by UNC since 1999. That followed a two-win season in 2013-14 and one title in 2012-13.
In addition to the six team championships, the Tar Heels have 15 other top five finishes in Sapp’s tenure, including a stretch last season in which UNC finished in the top three in seven of nine events.
Last year, UNC won the Tar Heel Intercollegiate, the Bridgestone in Greensboro for the second straight year and the Sea Best Invitational in Ponte Vedra, Fla. Carolina started two sophomores and two freshmen, yet posted eight top-five finishes in 12 starts, and added a trio of runner-up performances to the three team titles.
Two freshmen – Ben Griffin and William Register – each won a pair of individual titles. Griffin earned first-team All-ACC and honorable mention All-America honors and became Sapp’s first UNC player to earn an All-America honor, the school’s first since 2008.
“Coach Sapp keeps it really simple with us and that is a good thing,” says Griffin. “He lets us work on what we need to do individually, but is always there to assist us. He always finds ways to make practice competitive which helps us get better.”
Carolina’s top three in stroke average in 2015 (Griffin, Register and Carter Jenkins) also earned spots on the All-ACC Academic team; Griffin was one of five players in the conference to be on both the All-ACC team and the Academic All-ACC team. Ten of UNC’s 11 players last year had at least a 3.0 grade point average for the entire school year, with nine of making the ACC Academic Honor Roll.
Tar Heel players continued to have success this past summer. Jenkins won both the North Carolina Amateur and the Carolinas Amateur. Griffin qualified for the United States Amateur.
“Coach Sapp is a great coach because he listens to and understands each one of his players,” says Jenkins, who became the first player to win three Carolinas Amateurs since 1923. “Golf is such an individual sport and every player is different, so his ability to understand each of us is hugely important. He doesn't over coach; he trusts us to take care of our practice time and studies and prepare ourselves to be successful student-athletes. He's there for us every step of the way.”
Fittingly, the Raleigh, N.C. native’s first win as Carolina’s head coach came in 2012-13 at the Wolfpack Intercollegiate. Carolina also won that season at the Irish Creek Collegiate and was runner-up at both UNC and Duke. Brandon Dalinka won the individual title at NC State and Clark Palmer tied for first at Duke’s Rod Myers Invitational.
In Sapp’s four seasons, five players have earned a spot on the Academic All-ACC team a total of eight times, including Patrick, who was a three-time recipient.
“It’s an absolute pleasure working with Coach Sapp every single day,” says associate head coach Andrew DiBitetto. “We both love what we do and enjoy working together. He had a plan for this program and it’s been his vision and leadership that have allowed us to make tremendous progress in just a few years. He creates an environment that is fun and provides everyone the freedom they need to be successful in their own ways. The future of the Carolina Golf is certainly very bright.”
Sapp led the Michigan Wolverines from 2002-11. Michigan finished third in match play at the 2009 NCAA Championships after placing sixth in stroke play. The Wolverines won the 2011 NCAA Central-Indiana Regional and tied for 10th at the NCAA Championships. That top 10 finish marked the Maize and Blue’s fourth consecutive trip to the NCAA Regionals and second appearance in the NCAA Championships.
The Wolverines won eight tournament titles and five of Sapp’s players won eight individual titles, rewriting the school’s record book in the process. Sapp’s squads dropped nearly 15 strokes off the team scoring average to 290.41 in 2010 and 292.82 in 2011. His teams set the single-round record of 275 three times and set the lowest 54-hole score of 839. His players tied Michigan’s record for individual single-round score, set the record for individual 54-hole score and the record for average score per round.
One of Sapp’s players was selected third-team All-America and two received honorable mention honors. Four Wolverines were named to PING’s All-Midwest Region team on five occasions. Three were selected to the All-Big Ten team on four occasions and a Wolverine was chosen Big Ten Freshman of the Year in 2010.
Every senior who played for Sapp at Michigan completed his degree and his teams scored a perfect 1000 each year of the APR and ranked in the top 10 percent of all golf programs in 2009 and 2010. Thirty-four Wolverines earned Academic All-Big Ten honors, and the NGCA selected four Wolverines on five occasions as Cleveland Golf All-America Scholars.
Sapp began his coaching career at Carolina as Devon Brouse’s assistant from 1993-98. He assisted in all areas of the UNC program and was the camp coordinator for the Coaches of North Carolina Golf School.
As an assistant coach, the Tar Heels won 14 team titles, won 12 individual events, and participated in five consecutive NCAA Championships, including four top-20 finishes. UNC won the ACC championship in 1995 and 1996 and was second twice. He helped coach five All-Americas, seven players who received nine All-ACC honors, and two Academic All-Americas.
Mark Wilson played at Carolina when he won the 1996 Ben Hogan Award for academic and athletic excellence.
“Andrew was my assistant coach when I played at UNC,” says Wilson, a five-time winner on the PGA Tour. “His work ethic and attention to detail impressed me then and have made him one of the best coaches in the country.”
Brouse and Sapp moved on to Purdue in 1998, beginning a four-year stretch in which Sapp was the associate head coach of both the men’s and women’s teams. The Boilermakers won 12 team and 11 individual titles and he coached four All-Americas, four Academic All-Americas and 10 first-team All-Big Ten players. The men won consecutive NCAA Regionals in 2001 and 2002 and finished seventh at the 2002 NCAA Championships. The women had three top-20 finishes at the NCAA Championships, including ninth in 2000.
The Purdue men finished second twice and third once at the Big Ten Championship, while the women won the league in 2000 and were second in 2002.
Sapp played for the Tar Heels from 1990-93 and earned a bachelor’s degree in business administration in 1993. He earned his master’s in sports administration in 1996, conducting his research in academic enhancement for student-athletes.
Sapp and his wife, Laura, have one son, Connor, who was born in 2004.