Salisbury golf trio moves on

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 23, 2011

By Ryan Bisesi
SALISBURY ó Three lifelong friends grew up a bit last week.
Alex Nianouris, Alex Lee and Lily Yatawara already had so much in common. All three are defending state champions. All three went to Salisbury Academy and have know each other since Age 4. Theyíve helped Salisbury golf become of the more prominent 2A programs in the state.
But now they have to go sererate ways.
ěWeíve all just grown up playing golf,î Nianouris said. ěItís kind of special signing together and moving on to the next stage.î
The trio all signed with their prospective colleges last Monday. Nianouris will go to Davidson with teammate Lee choosing Catawba. Yatawara will join Appalachian State. Dale Snyder, who coached all three, couldnít recall a day where he had three golfers sign.
ěThis is why we do this,î Snyder said. ěYeah, weíve been lucky and won state championships. But we do this because theyíre student athletes.î
Another commonality is theyíre all defending state champions, Yatawara being the most recent when Salisbury went Southern Pines and blew away the rest of the field.
Nianouris switched between No. 2 and 3 for the Hornets, fluctuating with Eric Edwards last season. He shot par in the second round of the state championship last year after Salisbury entered the final day in a tie with North Lincoln.
ěWeíd love to do that again,î said Nianouris, whoís ranked 75th in the nation on the National Junior Golf Scoreboard. ěWe should have a good team coming in. Last year we had two guys outside our top six that were really deserving players.î
Nianourisí golf acumen is literally on the same plane as his academics. Heís ranked fourth in the state by the Carolinas Golf Association and is currently fourth in his class at SHS.
ěYou can ask any teacher at this school,î Snyder said. ěWhen you think about Alex Nianouris, the first thing you think of is academics.î
Nianouris individually tied for second at the 2011 Tarheel Youth Golf Association State Championship. He was fifth-best individually at the state championship with a two-day total of 144.
ěHeís always been such a consistent player,î Snyder said. ěAs heís grown physically, heís really grown into his game.î
The boys team lost top-player Roy Dixon, now on the squad at UNC Greensboro, but is again a contender in the 2A field with the majority of its team returning.
Lee was the No. 6 player last year, a testament to the Hornetsí depth. Freshman Eric Edwards won the Rowan County Championship in April and Troy Beaver came in second. Dixon, who won in 2010, shot a 73 and tied for third.
ěItís kind of hard when youíve got a kid whoís No. 6 on the team,î Snyder said. ěWell, look at our team. Thatís nothing to be ashamed of.î
His dad Brian is the pro at The Warrior in China Grove. Lee shot his career-best 66 in a round at the Warrior one summer. At the County championship in April, Lee finished with a 78.
ěHeís done some corrections to his swing that have really helped him in the long run,î Snyder said. ěHeís come through this year for us great.î
Lee has played often with Catawba freshman Marshall Ritchie, a Concord native, and knows all the current freshman. He scoured the east coast for a school that would be a good fit and it turned out the best option was right under his nose.
ěI came back to Catawba because it fit me as a school,î Lee said. ěI know the team will be pretty strong coming in next year.î
Yatawara will get to play with Salisbury grad Lauren Smith, whoíll be a fifth-year senior next year at App. Smith, the older sister of current Salisbury golfer Brooke Smith, lived just down the street from Yatawara growing up. The two recently attended a Mountaineer football game together.
ěI think itíll be good to have her there since Iíll be a freshman,î said Yatawara, an All-County selection all four years. The Hornets won the region in 2010 and finished second in the state. At Salisbury Academy, Yatawara was part of the co-ed state championship team in 2008.
Yatawara played as the Hornetsí No. 1 golfer this year, in front of stud freshman Isabella Rusher. She said sheíd like to add about 15 yards to her drive and improve her short game, a challenge at any level. 75 is her best score in an 18-hole tournament. 33 is her best nine-hole effort.
ěI need to get a little more distance and you can always improve your short game,î Yatawara said.
Yatawara hopes to make the teamís top five, which travel with the team. College golf teams carry five players and the top four scores are recorded.
ěBoth Alexís are like my brothers,î Yatawara said. ěWeíve known each other for so long and have a really good relationship.î
At the state championship, Yatawara had the fourth-best individual score of 162, shooting a 81 both days.
Yatawara competed on the Peggy Kirk Bell Girls Golf Tour, where she gathered nine top-five finishes and was twice a tournament runner-up.
ěYouíve got three amazing kids out here that are great on the golf course and in the classroom,î Snyder said.