Prep Golf: Salisbury going for third-straight state title
SALISBURY — Most years, Salisbury’s boys golf team made hotel reservations for Southern Pines long in advance of the state 2A championship match. After graduating four seniors from a squad that ran away with its second-consecutive state title last year, the Hornets didn’t know if they’d be playing for the big one again or looking for Mother’s Day gifts over the weekend. Last Thursday, Salisbury won its fourth-straight regional and there was coach Dale Snyder scrambling to find them a place to stay so they could defend their back-to-back championships. Today is the opening round of the state match. “It was a little sketchy for a while there,” Snyder said. “We got it figured out though.” As familiar as Longleaf Golf and Country Club has been to Salisbury over the years, this team doesn’t have the experience that the last two have on the course. The previous two state titles came at Longleaf with the 2011 win coming by 24 strokes and last year’s coming by 29. However, the path the Hornets took this year hasn’t carried that same route. Salisbury was unbeaten in 25 straight conference matches and won four straight county championships entering the season. They stretched their Central Carolina Conference unbeaten streak to 27 before West Davidson bested them twice in April. South Rowan broke the string of dominance at the county championship as the Hornets faced a string of adversity they hadn’t had recently.
Snyder, who has been at the helm of four state championships the last two years between the girls and boys teams, was pleased to see a mid-season surge. “We were all still trying to see where we fit,” Snyder said. “I expected us to contend the whole year. I was a little surprised we won the regional. I knew we could be one of the three that advanced to the state match.” West stuck around all year and was the most formidable foe, tying the Hornets for the CCC championship. The Green Dragons will be there again today. North Lincoln, who won consecutive titles in 2009-2010, Newton-Conover, and Shelby are other teams in the hunt in the two-day tournament. “It’s a very level playing field,” Snyder said. “In years past, we’ve been one of the most talented teams out there. I don’t see anybody running away with it. I really hope we’re in the mix.” Salisbury has rallied since spring break, taking the last two conference matches before winning the regional and topping second-place West by 10 strokes. Eric Edwards was the runner up of the regional with a 75. Edwards carried a 37.5 average during conference play and finished two strokes back of season medalist Andrew Kahn of West. Edwards, a junior, shot par two years ago at Longleaf as a freshman. Last season he finished third individually. Alex Austin is secure at No.2 as the Sandhills Community College signee will be playing in a course that he’ll play at often in the future. Austin shot an 81 at the regional with No.3 Joseph Rusher offering a 78. Rusher played at Longleaf last year and as a freshman. Longleaf is a par-71, 6,600-yard layout. Edwards, Austin and Rusher were established as the top three coming into the season after the exodus of Alex Nianouris, Troy Beaver, Alex Lee and Clark Alcorn. Abraham Post has provided depth, as have a pair of underclassmen in freshman Christopher Queen and sophomore Gabe Steinman. Snyder says his team’s fired up that South Rowan’s Davis Richards and Carson’s Andrew Purcell will be making the trip with them. Purcell and Richards are playing in the 3A championship at nearby Foxfire Golf and Country Club. “The kids are excited to pull for somebody else as well,” Snyder said. Practice rounds were played Sunday. Edwards tees of at 8:20 a.m. at the 10th hole with Austin (8:30), Rusher (8:40), Post (8:50), Steinman (9) and Queen (9:10) following. The top four scores will be recorded to compile the team score. If Salisbury turns out with lowest score after leaving the course Tuesday afternoon, this title will carrying a whole new meaning to Snyder and the Hornets. It would be their fourth crown since 1998. “Everyone across the state has been licking their chops to take us down,” Snyder said. “We’re saying ‘not yet.’ ”