By EDDIE SOUTHARDS
Salisbury golf coach Dale Snyder knew his team had a target on its back at the state 2-A golf championship this year.
The Hornets were the two-time defending champions and had suffered heavy graduation losses. Making it three titles in a row would be difficult.
“We had talked about a three-peat, but we knew this was the year everybody thought they would take us down,” Snyder said.
Salisbury made a good showing but managed only a fourth-place finish in its bid to string three championships together. The Hornets shot two rounds of 316 for a 632 total, finishing 21 shots behind Newton-Conover, which won its first state 2-A title at Longleaf Golf & Country Club in Southern Pines.
“We put up a good fight and I think we did a good job,” Snyder said. “There’s no disappointment, there’s no shame in what we did. We are the fourth best team in the state and these guys should be very proud of that.”
Snyder had to field a lineup that included three players that had never competed in a regional or state tournament. But the Hornets won their fourth straight regional title to qualify for the state tournament.
“Graduation really hurt us,” Snyder said. “But we still tied for the conference and we won the regional. That was a big boost of confidence but we just didn’t get anything going down here. We historically have played really well on this golf course and it just didn’t happen.”
Junior Eric Edwards was one of the most experienced members of the Salisbury team. He was playing in the state tournament for the third straight year and had never known anything but winning the title. He acquitted himself well with rounds of 73 and 74 on the par-71 layout and tied for third in the individual competition.
“I feel like I could have played better,” he said. “I had the hooks for the two days. It was tough to deal with that but I tried to play through it. I got up-and-down more than I like to have to deal with. Usually, the short game is the strength of my game.”
He was disappointed to see the team’s run of titles end.
“This is a different team, different scenario. But we still played better than I thought we would,” Edwards said.
The Hornets trailed Newton-Conover by 17 shots after the first round and knew it would be a longshot to make a comeback.
“Coach told us anything can happen,” Edwards said. “We played so well here last year. We could have had a miracle round.”
Snyder liked the way Edwards played, especially how he handled adversity on his ninth hole in the second round when he hit a shot out of bounds and still managed to make a bogey.
“Eric’s a great player,” Snyder said. “He’s been such an instrumental part of our program for three years now. I’m really looking forward to him being our leader next year and taking us to the next level. The younger guys on the team look up to him and that’s a testament to him.”
Two seniors, Alex Austin and Joseph Rusher, also shot two rounds in the 70s for Salisbury. Austin shot 79-78 and Rusher a pair of 79s. Abraham Post was the fourth scorer for the Hornets with 85-86.
“The guys played as well as they could,” Snyder said. “When you get beat, you just tip your cap, shake their hand and move on.”
Newton-Conover won by four shots over North Lincoln (615) Shelby was third at 627.
West Davidson finished sixth at 657, led by junior Nathan Curry. He shot 72-78 and tied for seventh individually.
“I thought I was going to place a little higher than I did,” he said. “But I can’t really complain. I shot two scores in the 70s. I’m feeling pretty good, I made the top 10 in the state.”
Andrew Kahn gave the Dragons a strong second stick. He shot 77-75 and finished 12th.
Curry is looking forward to 2014 because the Dragons lose just one player.
“We should be stronger next year,” he said. “Individually, I gave myself a chance to win this year. Hopefully, I will give myself the same chance next year.”
Alex Hefner led Newton-Conover to the team victory, taking medalist honors with 70-72. His first round of 1-under was the only subpar round of the tournament.