Emily Anderson didn’t start playing golf until she was in eighth grade.
She had played only three or four times with her father, Edward, but decided to try out for the co-ed, Porter Ridge Middle School team. Anderson, 16, was one of the 10 players on the team with more than 30 boys and girls trying out.
At the end of the season, Anderson was voted “Most Improved Player” by her coaches. Since then, Anderson has lived on the golf course, according to her Porter Ridge High golf coach, Kevin Jarman. She also plays junior golf year round.
“Emily’s passion for the game is what drives her,” Jarman said. “She is always playing golf or working on her game . She eats, drinks and sleeps golf.”
Anderson’s commitment has paid early dividends. She won the U.S. Kids’ Charlotte Summer Tour in the summer between her freshman and sophomore seasons at Porter Ridge. She also finished second on the First Tee of Pinehurst Winter Tour (2013-14).
She has rapidly ascended to one of the most consistent golfers in Union County, the Southwestern 4A conference and the state.
Anderson had her breakout season as a sophomore when she earned medalist in every regular season match for the Pirates. She averaged a career-best 38 (per nine holes), lowering her scoring average by four strokes from her freshman season, while earning SW4A conference player of the year honors.
Anderson, who was the only member of her team to qualify for regional or state play, also played some of her best golf when it mattered. She shot 83 at the 4A West Regional at Bermuda Run Country Club, to finish eighth. Then, one week later, she shot a two-day 162 (77-85) to finish 24th in her first appearance in the 4A state meet at Pinehurst.
“I had a good (sophomore) year, but in golf you always want to be getting better,” said Anderson, who shot career lows of 69 (on 18) at the Divide Golf Club (her home course) and 33 (on nine holes at Larkhaven) this past year. “I’m constantly working on improving some part of my game.”
Anderson has been hard at work this summer. She is No. 10 on the Peggy Kirk Bell Tour Order of Merit, with recent top 10s at the Wolfpack Classic at N.C. State (finished 10th) and Metrolina Classic at Rock Hill Country Club (tied for seventh).
The rising Porter Ridge junior also went to Wake Forest’s golf camp, where she said she gained valuable knowledge and worked on her mental game.
“The mental part of golf is extremely important and something that gets overlooked by a lot of people, but something I’m constantly working on,” said Anderson, who has a handicap of seven. “We worked on a lot of mental exercises at Wake Forest, that I think will help me going forward.”
Anderson said she is eager to start this season. Porter Ridge has finished second in the Southwestern 4A Conference to Myers Park each of the past two seasons.
With a more experienced team, including senior Imani Thompson and Anderson’s younger sister, Genna, the Pirates hope they can win a league championship, and qualify for regional and even state play.
“I love playing for Porter Ridge and with all of my teammates,” Anderson said. “But it’s really cool playing on the same team with my sister. We really enjoy working on our games together.”
Anderson also has high individual expectations for herself, including repeating as conference champion, and contending for both the 4A West Regional and state individual titles. The 5-foot-4 Porter Ridge golfer says one of aspect of her game she would like to improve is her drive, where she averages about 220 yards off the tee.
While Anderson’s future on and off the course (4.2 GPA) has never looked better, she is trying to take everything one step at a time.
“I try never to get too far ahead of myself on the golf course,” Anderson said. “I want to stay in the moment and be focused on my next shot.”
Jay Edwards is a freelance writer: email@example.com.
Union County Girls Golf Preview
Here are some other top Union County golfers to keep an eye on:
▪ Lizzie Hordes, Cuthbertson, Sr.: Cavaliers’ standout was finished third in the Southern Carolinas’ conference, ninth at 3A West Regionals, and tied for 28th in the state.
▪ Ellie Laymon, Weddington, Sr.: Warriors’ senior expecting a big season after qualifying for regionals and state last season.
▪ Abby Duggan, Marvin Ridge, Sr.: Mavericks’ four-year letter winner now takes a lead role on the 3A state runner-up team.
▪ Haley McCrossan, Marvin Ridge, So.: Like Duggan, she has big expectations after playing well in the biggest events as a freshman.
▪ Genna Anderson, Porter Ridge, So.: Emily’s younger sister looks to follow in her footsteps with a big sophomore season.
▪ First day of practice: Aug. 1.
▪ NCHSAA Regional Championships (1A, 2A, 3A, 4A): Oct. 19-20.
▪ NCHSAA Championships (1A, 2A, 3A, 4A): Oct. 26-27.
Compiled by Jay Edwards