High school boys golf: Sting is back for young Hornets

Published 12:00 am Saturday, April 15, 2023

By Mike London

SALISBURY —  Boys golf is on an upswing in Rowan County.

A youthful Salisbury team that has seven good players in the freshman and sophomore classes shot 306 at Crescent to win the Rowan County Championships on Wednesday, with East Rowan finishing two strokes back. Carson shot 326 for third.

“A lot of schools have a great golfer, some will have two and a few may even have three or four,” said Salisbury’s first-year coach Josh Brincefield. “But we’ve got seven guys who could legitimately provide our best score on a given day. I know that’s a very rare thing. When you play a match, you have to declare which five are eligible for the (four-man) team score, and I knew there was a good chance that our 6 (Sam Goodman) and our  7 (Drew Aron) might shoot a great score that wouldn’t count for us. And sure enough, that happened.”

Aron shot a 77 to tie for fourth place overall. His score didn’t count for the Hornets, but he did make the all-county team.

“Drew has been coming back very strong from a broken wrist,” Brincefield said.

Brincefield has some experience with shooting well and not scoring. Thirty years ago, Salisbury golf coach Sam Gealy assembled a powerful group of players that would win a team 3A state championship in 1993 and 1A/2A state titles in 1994 and 1995.

In the 1993 Rowan County tournament, Salisbury’s Elliot Gealy, Jon Huddle, Christopher McCoy and David Goodman combined to shoot 312 and won the county title by 35 strokes. Brincefield shot 83 that day, and while his score didn’t count for the Hornets, he still made the seven-man all-county team.

Now it’s the next generation. Sons of those Salisbury standouts are in high school now, including Brincefield’s son, Bo.

“Former coach Alex Weant moved away, and before he left for West Cabarrus (former Salisbury AD) Brian Hinson asked me if I could coach the golf team,” Brincefield said. “I was thrilled to do it, to be out there, not only with my own son, but with some sons of friends and former teammates. Every match is a little reunion for us. Every day we get to spend together takes me back to very good memories.”

The team scores posted by Salisbury and East were the strongest in the county tournament since East won the event with an even 300 at McCanless in 2018.

The battle for medalist honors mirrored the tight fight for the team title. Salisbury freshman John McCoy and East junior Lucas Merrell shot even-par 72s to tie for that honor. For Merrell, it meant accomplishing the rare feat of three-peating as county champion.

John McCoy is a son of Christopher McCoy, who became Rowan County’s first individual state champion in golf as a Hornet in 1995.

John has the golf gene. He shot 66 in a recent tournament.

“John McCoy and I go back a long way in junior tournaments,” Merrell said. “He’s a good buddy and a really great player. Always fun to compete against him.”

Merrell almost had Wednesday’s match in his grasp, but then he ran into trouble on the 16th hole.

“I pulled my drive into the woods for a quick 7 and was back in a tie for first,” Merrell said.

Merrell put that disaster behind him and bounced right back to birdie the par-5 17th, but McCoy also birdied.

“Still all square going to 18,” Merrell said.

A substantial gallery had gathered near the 18th green and watched Merrell hit a spectacular second shot that was about about 5 feet from the hole. McCoy’s second shot was safely on the green, but he had a putt of at least 20 feet. Merrell believes it may have been 30.

McCoy drained his putt.

“He just rammed it right in there,” is how Merrell described McCoy’s clutch putt.

Now the pressure was all on Merrell, who had to make a putt that was no sure thing just to tie.

“It was straight uphill,” Merrell said. “The one thing I told myself was that I was not going to leave it short.”

He didn’t leave it short. He knocked it in, and he and McCoy were co-medalists.

“The gallery went crazy on 18 on both of those putts,” Coach Brincefield said. ” Great golf from both of those young guys, and a lot of fun for all of us.”

East and Salisbury had played in two-team matches twice earlier this season. The Hornets had won both of those head-to-head matchups, including a one-shot victory at Warrior.

Both teams have ruled their respective conferences so far this season. Both teams have high hopes for regionals — and hopefully, the state tournament.

They are competitive rivals, but they are also friends. East’s Brady McvIntyre and Salisbury’s Warren Fesperman are cousins.

“We can’t be mad about finishing second today because we played really well,” Merrell said. “Salisbury is just really good, and they played a little better.”

Salisbury has an unusual bunch of young athletes  who compete in football, basketball, baseball and tennis, as well as golf. Salisbury golf borrows Jackson Sparger from the baseball team for big matches. Bryant Davis is loaned to golf by a tennis team that breezes through all of its Central Carolina Conference matches.

Brincefield feels fortunate to get to coach this group. Their golf accomplishments in the years to come may fill the school trophy case, as was the case in the 1990s.

“The goal for today was to play well and we did that,” he said. “To win the county — that was icing on the cake.”

It was the first county championship for the Hornets since 2019. West Rowan had a breakthrough win in 2022. East had won in 2021. COVID had canceled the 2020 tournament.

Salisbury’s counting scores were McCoy (72),  Fesperman (77), Sparger (77) and Davis (80).

East’s scorers were Merrell (72), Jaden Sprinkle (76), McIntyre (77) and Brayden Mulkey (83).

West’s Tyler Kepley and Carson’s Cade Cranfield shot 77s and joined McCoy, Fesperman, Sparger, Aron, Merrell, Sprinkle and McIntyre on the all-county team.

Brincefield’s son, Bo, didn’t have his best day, but his father/coach, who was a Labor Day champ back last September, could smile about his 88.

“Golf is hard,” the coach said. “I’ve been through all of it, all the ups and downs. You can easily shoot 78 one day and 88 the next. The great thing is we know we’ve got seven guys who can play. I don’t know what’s out there in 2A statewide, but we’re eager to see what these young guy can do.”


Salisbury (306) — John McCoy 72, Warren Fesperman 77, Jackson Sparger 77, Bryant Davis 80, (Bo Brincefield 88)

East Rowan (308) — Landon Merrell 72, Jaden Sprinkle 76, Brady McIntyre 77, Brayden Mulkey 83, (Austin Tucker 88)

Carson (326) — Cade Cranfield 77, Tanner Frye 78, Jonathan Therecka 85, Harrison McCall 86, (Robert Jolly 89)

West Rowan (363) — Tyler Kepley 77, Gage Ludwick 91, Brody Tucker 96, Sam Faulkner 99, (Luke Waller 103)

South Rowan (399) — Jordan Bledsoe 90, Brock Barger 92, Cayden Moore 107, Alex Furr 110, (Josiah Weber 117)

North Rowan — No team score

All-County: McCoy, Fesperman, Sparger, Merrell, Sprinkle, McIntyre, Cranfield, Aron, Kepley



Photo gallery from the course here https://www.salisburypost.com/2023/04/13/photo-gallery-salisbury-claims-boys-golf-title/