High school golf: North’s Elder will play at next level for Montreat

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, March 21, 2023

By Mike London

SPENCER. — North Rowan senior Azaria Elder isn’t a sensational golfer yet, but she’s become a competitive one in a short time, and her best rounds are clearly still in front of her.

She has come far enough since she began playing at age 14 that she will be a scholarship golfer at Montreat, a school about 15 miles from Asheville that competes at the NAIA level.

She signed with Montreat earlier this month. Like North Rowan, Montreat is known as the Cavaliers. That didn’t hurt the school’s recruiting efforts.

“I’m thankful to Montreat for reaching out,” Elder said. “The Montreat coach contacted me through the National Collegiate Scouting Association online recruitment website. After he contacted me, my parents and I talked with him and he explained he was in the process of rebuilding the women’s golf team. He wanted me to join his team. After we talked, my family and I visited the Montreat campus. When I visited, I felt it was the right college for me.”

Elder is a National Honor Society student, which helped make her recruitable.

Elder, who shares a surname with the first Black golfe to play in the Masters, is also a minority golfer, which makes her notable. According to the National Golf Foundation, only 3 percent of the nation’s recreational golfers are Black. That figure drops to 1.5 percent for competitive golfers, including high school players.

“It is important that  I do everything in my power to motivate and inspire young Black girls, especially, to participate in any sport they choose, specifically golf,” Elder said. “I want to contribute as that role model for them and encourage them to set high goals for themselves both on and off the course.”

Elder has always been a good athlete and competed in basketball, softball and soccer before she took up golf.

“I began playing golf when I was 14 years old, as an incoming freshman,” Elder said.  “I was approached by a few of my classmates at the time and asked if I was interested in playing, and I decided to give it a go. Prior to my first practice, I had never picked up a golf club in my life.”

When West Cabarrus opened for the 2020-21 school year, Elder had the distinction of being the first female golfer for the Wolverines.

She later returned to North Rowan and has helped North in multiple sports. She was an important member of the North basketball team that won 20 games this season.

On the golf course last fall, she made an impact for the Cavaliers, who were coached by Hunter Fuller.

Her best nine-hole score was a 53 at McCanless in September.

Her biggest achievement was the winning the Central Carolina Conference Tournament with a score of 107.  She placed fifth in the CCC as far as the season standings.

She made the All-Rowan County team, shooting 106, good for seventh place in the Rowan County Championships.

There were a lot of positive rounds, a lot of good memories made.

“At Sapona (in Lexington), I improved from a 65 for nine holes to a 54 the next time I played there,” Elder said. “That was a proud moment. I hit a 200-yard drive there, probably my shot ever, and made a par.”

When she’s not participating in athletics, Elder’s priorities are friends, family, school, church and community service projects.

She plans to major in exercise science at Montreat. She’ll have a lot of people rooting for her to keep shining on the golf course.