SALISBURY — You know you’re good when you tie for second at the state championships and people feel like they need to console you.
Salisbury’s Isabella Rusher, Rowan County Player of the Year, is good.
More than good, actually. She’s already a two-time individual state champion and a three-time team champion — with her senior season still in front of her.
Rusher’s Twitter profile says simply — “I’m a golfer” — and she isn’t kidding.
As a freshman, she shot 157 and won the 1A-2A state title. For a freshman to average 78.5 on a tough course with tough competition and maximum pressure is a remarkable thing.
As a sophomore, she raised the bar a lot. Her 146 scorecard blew everyone in the field away and she repeated as state champion.
This fall, her 154 wasn’t quite good enough for a third individual title, but the team ring was still the biggest thing, and she came away with one more for the jewelry box.
“I’d kind of made up my mind I was going to win four straight and to get those first two was really exciting,” Rusher said. “So I’m not going to lie to you — it was really disappointing not to win this year. But all that means is that I’ll work that much harder.”
Ask Dale Snyder what makes Rusher special, and his answer isn’t surprising. There’s some serious talent in that surprisingly small frame, and she’s put in some serious work to sharpen her skills.
“She’s been playing forever, so experience is on her side,” Snyder said. “The other thing is her short game. That’s her strength. She’s just really good around the green. She finds a way to get the ball in the hole in a hurry.”
Rusher laughed when she was asked if she’d really been playing “forever.” She denied crawling around the Country Club of Salisbury course swinging plastic clubs.
“But I did get started early, at age 8,” she explained. “My grandfather was a player and so was my dad and so was my uncle, and then my brother (Joseph) was a player. I would ride around in the golf cart following my brother around, and it took off from there.”
She’s on the course often, and when she practices, she has a plan.
“I always play nine holes when I practice and I wouldn’t say that I work on any specific thing — I basically work on everything,” she said. “I agree my short game is my strength. I’m not one of those girls who hits the ball a mile.”
Rusher plays on a highly competitive junior tour in the summer. In the latest rankings, she’s No. 11 in North Carolina, with a stroke average of 79.04.
“I have teammates who are very good players and we do push each other, but I don’t look at it like I’m just competing against my teammates,” said Rusher, who was second team All-State as a sophomore. “I want to play in college, so I look at it like I’m competing with everyone in the United States,”
Rusher will have options when she makes her college commitment. Besides being outstanding on the course, she has a high enough GPA that she’s drawn interest from Ivy League schools. She’s taking her annual sabbatical from golf right now so she can focus on a bundle of AP classes.
“But when February and March come around, I’ll be back playing at the Country Club,” Rusher said.
Snyder is appreciative that he’s got Rusher for one more year.
“She’s already had an incredible career,” he said. “And knowing her, being second this year, that really will push her a little bit.”
The Post’s all-county golf team isn’t decided by votes or opinions or stroke averages. It basically came down to one September day at Corbin Hills, where the top eight for 18 holes earned all-county honors.
Rusher shot 75 for medalist honors. Teammates Grace Yatawara (76) and Madeline Hoskins (77) were right behind her.
Yatawara, a sophomore, would be county player of the year in most counties in America. In her two state tournaments, she’s placed third and fifth, and she’s No. 18 in the state’s Junior Golf rankings with a stroke average of 80.7.
You’ve no doubt already heard about Hoskins, one of the remarkable competitors in county history. While Rusher and Yatawara are great golfers. Hoskins is a great athlete. She’s not only helped Salisbury claim a series of golf titles, she’s helped the Hornets dominate 2A tennis simultaneously. Hoskins and Alexandra Drye even teamed for the 2A tennis doubles championship this fall.
And yes, there have been days when Hoskins has competed in both sports — and at a high level.
It takes three scores to win golf state titles, and Hoskins has been such a tremendous No. 3 for the Hornets that they’ve won their recent championships by 33, 60 and 57 shots. It hasn’t been close.
Salisbury will have Rusher and Yatawara back in 2014, but they lose Hoskins. The key to the Hornets making it four straight titles will be Caroline Parrott. She or Shelby Holden will be No. 3 next season.
Parrott made all-county by virtue of the 98 she shot in the county tournament.
While Salisbury provides half the all-county golfers, the other four represent four different schools.
South Rowan’s Alexandria Bare had the most impressive non-Hornet season. Bare shot 93 in the county tournament, but she fired an 87 in the South Piedmont Conference Tournament and carded a 94 on a tight Meadowlands course in the regional at Winston-Salem to qualify for the 3A state championships.
Bare, a junior, played with a back brace, but she had a breakout season.
East Rowan’s Kathryn Marcum shot 90 for fourth place in the county tournament. Carson’s Adison Collins produced a 92 to lead the Cougars at the county tournament. Kelly Boley paced West Rowan in the county event with a 98.