Prep Golf: Salisbury's Lee saves best for last
By Bret Strelow
The state golf championships start today, and Salisbury senior Allison Lee has of habit of staying on schedule.
Play 18 holes Monday. Push toward the front Tuesday.
Lee, who has committed to Winthrop, will lead a quartet of Hornets into this year’s 1A/2A/3A tournament at the Foxfire West Course near Pinehurst.
Lee shot a career-low 75 in the final round of the 36-hole event last year and tied for third place individually. She shaved 12 strokes off her first-day score as a sophomore and posted an 82 to help Salisbury capture a second straight team title.
“When I think of Allison, I think of the second day of states after she had really struggled in the regional and really struggled on the first day,” Salisbury coach Dale Snyder said. “She turned it around and threw up a ridiculous number. That told me all I needed to know.
“She’s such a gamer. She’s been around the tournament game for so long that pressure doesn’t get to her. She’s performed so well in so many clutch situations.”
Defending state champion Union Pines had the lowest regional score among teams that qualified for this year’s 1A/2A/3A tournament, and an 82 from Lee carried the Hornets to a third-place finish in the West.
Amber Lyerly, Lily Yatawara and Catherine Parks will also represent Salisbury this week.
“It’s bittersweet,” Lee said. “It’s exciting because I have a future ahead playing for Winthrop, but it will be sad leaving the Salisbury team behind.”
Jodi Wendt coaches the Eagles, who finished third in the Big South during the 2008 spring season. Lee, who wants to pursue a golf-affiliated career, plans to major in sport management.
Lee’s father, Brian, is a PGA professional at Warrior Golf Club and her mother, Melody, has traveled to more than 160 junior tournaments in the last eight years.
Lee said she never felt any parental pressure to take up the game, and Melody thought a disastrous debut might curtail any interest.
At the age of 9, Lee played alongside two talented 8-year-olds in an 18-hole junior event at Warrior. Laura Chang, now a Ragsdale junior, and Molly Plomaritis, a Grimsley standout who previously attended the David Leadbetter Golf Academy, beat Lee by roughly 40 strokes apiece.
“I was just so excited to finally get to play,” Lee said. “I didn’t realize how much better they were, and they were so much better. I was amazed at how good it made me want to play.”
Lee improved steadily and arrived at Salisbury High as part of a potent duo. She tied for 10th place at the state tournament as a freshman, and a second-place showing by Lauren Smith enabled the Hornets to win the championship by 17 strokes.
Lee fired a 96 as Salisbury finished third in its regional the next season, and she had a 94 on the first day of the state competition. Smith and Lee overcame a nine-shot deficit to edge runner-up Wilson Fike for the title.
Lee hit every fairway in the final round last year, when the Hornets placed third as a team.
“It’s the best I’ve felt hitting the ball,” Lee said. “It just felt like everything fell into place. It’s been amazing from my freshman year to now, even last year coming in third, because of being with the team and getting to have that experience.”