Prep Golf: Salisbury girls win second straight state championship
By Ryan Bisesi
PINEHURST - The dramatics were minimal, as was the preference of the Salisbury girls golf team. The Hornets entered the final round of the 1A/2A state championship with a 29-shot lead and ended up repeating as champions in businesslike fashion Tuesday in Pinehurst. Like the wind gusts blowing away the spectators at the West Course at Foxfire Golf Club, the Hornets blew by the competition, winning by a staggering 60 strokes with a 490 team score after two rounds. Sophomore Isabella Rusher came back stronger in Round 2 and won the individual title for the second straight year. Freshman Grace Yatawara finished third with a 161 as the Hornets won their fourth title in the 12 years they've had a program. As formulaic as it sounded, the thrill wasn't lost. "We're going to enjoy the heck out of this for a while," Salisbury coach Dale Snyder said. "We're just consistently good every time we go on the course. We shot an incredible number on a very tough course. We just did what we do on a bigger stage today." The Hornets repeated as champs for the first time since it won the 1A-2A-3A title in 2005 and 2006. Rusher shot an impressive 71 that was the only score to reach par during the two-day event. She achieved four birdies on Tuesday, a day after shooting 75 for a 146 total. The Hornets shot 244 as a team Tuesday. After starting the day with a one-shot lead on Elkin's Mary Francis Hall, Rusher pulled away. "The conditions were worse than yesterday and I played better today," Rusher said. "I've never shot better on the second day in any tournament, so I'm real excited." Keyed by a 30-foot putt she sunk for birdie on No. 12, Rusher shot a 1-under 34 on the back nine to wind up 12 shots better than runner-up Kasie Tolbert of North Surry. Rusher tapped her putter gracefully along the sloping green and bent her knees and twisted around like a pinball player. When it dipped in, she raised her arms, looking back at her father in elation. "It was probably the defining moment of the last two days," Rusher said. "It was breaking hard left and so I kind of went up there and hoped for the best. It was probably pretty lucky." Rusher sank a 15-footer on the next hole to make it in two shots on a Par 3. She went on to birdie No. 17 and reach par on 18 to finish up even and welcomed a team-wide hug. It was a better two rounds than her 157 score last year at Longleaf. "There was no way, looking at the weather conditions, that you figured anybody would score lower than they did yesterday," Snyder said. "Sure enough Isabella and Madeline went lower." Yatawara shot a 42 on the front nine and 41 on the back nine to total a respectable 83. She birdied holes 9 and 15 to amass the total, which didn't quite live up to Monday's 78. "I was very surprised because I didn't think I played that well," said Yatawara of finishing third. "There were definitely tough conditions both days." Hoskins shot a 90 Tuesday for a 183 total. The junior will head over to the opposite end of the state today to play in the 2A west final in the tennis playoffs. "It was a pretty hard course and the conditions were pretty rough," said Hoskins, who finished 16th out of 78 golfers. Everyone had to play through it, so you couldn't really have that excuse." Hendersonville finished second with a 550 and Croatan third at 560. Brooke Smith is the only departing senior on the team. The Smith family now has four state titles between them with Lauren having been part of the 2005 and 2006 title teams. Brooke shot 106 for the day and a 199 for the championship. "I feel really sad but really happy too," Smith said. "I wanted to have a good round. I didn't have my best round, but I'm pretty happy." Snyder now has six titles between the boys and girls golf teams, putting him ahead of Salisbury girls tennis coach Chris Myers, who's pursuing a sixth this week. "I'm up on him for a few days at least," Snyder joked.