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High school golf: Teems, East freshmen lead the way

By Mike London
mike.london@salisburypost.com

GRANITE QUARRY — Rhett Teems has been the glue holding Rowan County high school golf together for many years.

The East Rowan coach is stepping down from the links, but he goes out with one more Rowan County Coach of the Year accolade.

This was Teems’ most challenging year as a golf coach because for the first time, due to the modified COVID schedule, the boys and girls seasons were unfolding at the same time. Teems is tireless, but he was stretched thin. Still, East’s boys and girls recorded county championships in April.

Teems invested 12 years in military service before he got into teaching. He taught and coached in Mecklenburg and Stanly counties for 10 years before he launched a career as a social studies and driver’s education teacher at East. He’s been a familiar face and voice at East since 2005.

Teems not only coached the Mustangs, he was all-in. He drove the bus, promoted the sport, praised the local courses, raised the funds, administered the tournaments and got the scores reported.

That last part may not seem vital, but without Teems a host of young golfers never would have seen their names in print.

“When we were playing in the big tournaments, I was always working them,” Teems said. “So I didn’t get to watch our golfers play nearly as much as I wanted to. But I would get the scores in. That’s important to parents and grandparents.”

There was exceptional golf turned in by the Mustangs in Teems’ final season.

“At the beginning of every year, you sit down and your No. 1 goal is to win the conference,” Teems said. “If you can take that county championship, too, well, that’s icing. The next big goal is to get to the regional. Then you want to do well enough in the regional to get to state. You get to state, it means you’re playing on the last day. That’s all you can ask for from a season.”

East’s boys took care of the conference goal easily. The Mustangs turned in strong scores at Warrior to win the North Piedmont Conference going away. Colby Patterson shot a sizzling 69 for the final 18. Landon Merrell shot 72.

Over the course of the conference season, Merrell was the most consistent in league matches. The freshman was honored as North Piedmont Conference Player of the Year.

Merrell was also the best — by a lot — in the Rowan County Championship that was held at The Revival Golf Club at Crescent. He shot 71 that day to win by 10 strokes.

Taking the county and conference individual titles made Merrell the easy choice as the Post’s Player of the Year.

The bad news? East’s boys didn’t have a great day in the regional held at the Country Club of Salisbury and couldn’t advance to the state.

“That was a tough day,” Teems said. “The weather beat everyone up, and out of all the regionals, we’re always in the toughest in the state. The teams that come out of our region always finish in the top five in the state, and this year was no different. Teams from our region finished 1-2.”

East’s girls finished second in the NPC behind South Iredell, but they did manage to win the Rowan County Championship.

Freshman Hannah Waddell provided the spark for the Mustangs. She shot 39 in the nine-hole Rowan County Championship held at Corbin Hills.

Waddell was the NPC Player of the Year, firing an 84 for medalist honors in the 18-hole finale at Twin Oaks.

She also was the easy choice as the Post’s Player of the Year.

Waddell battled through tough conditions to shoot 94 in regional competition at Greensboro National. She tied for 12th and was an individual state qualifier.

“We got rain and we had long delays,” Teems said. “Hannah kept doing her best.”

In the state tournament that was shortened to a single day this season by COVID restrictions, Waddell shot 93 and tied for 18th. That was a nice start toward a big career.

“I was able to coach on the last day of the golf season because of Hannah,” Teems said. “But the thing everyone doesn’t know is how close we came at the regional to making the state as a team. We missed qualifying for state by four strokes. It came down to the card from the last girl that came in.”

Carlee Patterson, East’s No. 2 player, played several weeks with a wrist injury. She shot 88 on the final day of the NPC competition.

“I’d ask her how she was and she would say she could do it,” Teems said. “She was always, ‘Hey, let’s go!'”

Teems, who coached his two strongest Mustang teams to 3A runner-up finishes, guided the East boys to five county championships in their last six tries. They won them on four different courses.

As Teems strides off into the sunset, East’s girls have taken four county titles in a row

Teems isn’t a competitive golfer, but he’s someone who knows the game and understands it. He’s passed that love of the game on to dozens of Mustangs. He’s made a difference in golf in the county.

East will be switching to a much different 3A league next school year — four Rowan schools, three Cabarrus schools and Lake Norman Charter —  but Teems is confident the golf show will go on without him.

“Our boys will still be very good and our girls can win that conference,” Teems said. “Whoever is coaching them, they’re going to have a shot. I’ll still be watching. Actually, I’ll probably be able to watch them more than I ever did.”

•••

The top seven boys in the Rowan County Championship are automatically all-county.

Salisbury senior Will Fowler wasn’t one of those seven, but the Post recognizes him as all-county for the season. Fowler’s nine-hole 32 at the Country Club of Salisbury was the round of the year as far as the conference matches. Fowler shot 76 at Crescent in pressure-packed regional competition and represented Rowan County in the state championships. He shot 85 on Pinehurst No. 6.

The top six girls in the county event are automatically all-county.

Golf Coach of the Year

Rhett Teems, East

Boys Player of the Year

Landon Merrell, East

All-County boys

Whitt Hoesman, East

Tyler Kepley, West

Nick Antosek, Salisbury

Will Webb, Salisbury

Aden Castor, Carson

Colby Patterson, East

Girls Player of the Year

Hannah Waddell, East

All-County girls

Carlee Patterson, East

Addison Queen, East

Emma Callahan, East

Phoebe Shields, Salisbury

Blythe Elliot, South

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