SOUTHERN PINES — Salisbury golf was strong at Longleaf Golf and Country Club, just not strong enough.
The Hornets finished Monday’s opening session of the two-day 2A state championships at 316. That was good for fourth place behind the three squads that came out of the Western Regional — Newton-Conover (299), North Lincoln (307) and Shelby (313).
Newton-Conover had two of the top individuals in Alex Hefner (70, first place) and Trey Burton (72, tied for second).
“It’s not like 316 is a bad score,” Salisbury coach Dale Snyder said. “It’s just not a score that’s going to win a state championship. But we’ve set the bar high, and anything less is going to be disappointing. Newton-Conover put up a very good score today. Now we know how other teams have felt like looking at us.”
Six Hornets competed, with the top four scores counting toward a team score. The par-71 layout played 6,600 yards.
Salisbury won the last two state championships, including a steamroller statement in 2012 when the Hornets fired a torrid 283 on the final day and romped liked Secretariat at the Belmont Stakes to a 31-stroke win.
Eric Edwards, third individually in 2012, is the returning leader for the Hornets. His 73 on Monday put him a tie for fifth, three shots back of Hefner.
“Eric struck the ball really well, but he just missed a few putts,” Snyder said. “He shot 39 on the back side, then had it back to 1-over at one point.”
The Hornets started on the tighter back nine, where’s there’s more woods and more frequent elevation changes.
“We started out very well on what is the tougher side,” Snyder said. “But then we gave a few shots back at the end.”
Alex Austin shot 79 for the Hornets and had a super round going until he suffered a late triple bogey.
“Alex shot 36 on the tough side,” Snyder said.
Joseph Rusher also turned in a 79. He started out with three bogeys, but then he found a groove and produced a consistent round.
“And that score was with one terrible break — a ball took a really bad kick out of bounds,” Snyder said.
Abraham Post posted the fourth counting score — 85.
“He had one bad hole early, but then he regained his composure,” Snyder said.
Christopher Queen and Gabe Steinman carded 89s.
“Chris made a nice comeback, and Gabe grinded out a solid round,” Snyder said.
Queen will start the Hornets off today on No. 10 at 9:20 a.m. At 10:10, Edwards, who is still very much in the individual championship chase, will tee off last.
No one is waving a white towel.
“Experience is a huge factor, and we’ve got three guys who have never played in a match at this level,” Snyder said. “But we’ll go out there and do our best and hopefully we’ll move up a place or two. We’re not going away.”
South Rowan sophomore Davis Richards and Carson senior Andrew Purcell are competing as individuals in the 3A championships at Foxfire Golf and Country Club in the Pnehurst area. Richards shot 73 on Monday and is tied for fifth, five shots off the pace set by Greenville Conley’s Bryce Hendrix.
Purcell shot 79.
“I had three birdies my first nine holes, but every time I’d start feeling good, I’d make a bogey,” Purcell said. “I missed six putts of 10 feet or less and just never got used to the greens and never really got anything going.”