Stephen Saleeby is golfing full-time this summer.
The NCHSAA 4A individual golf champion and member of the state championship Broughton High School golf team is working on his game nearly all day, every day.
“I just love it,” Saleeby said. “I come out in the morning and practice and then I’ll play with a couple of my friends in the afternoon.”
Many of the friends he plays with are fellow state champion teammates. The powerful Broughton squad is a young one that includes Saleeby, who just celebrated his 15th birthday, and three other rising sophomores.
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“They just love being around each other, pushing each other and rooting for each other,” said Steve Saleeby, Stephen’s father. “I think what separates these kids is the mental part of the game. They are able to just focus on the course and shoot low numbers.”
In addition to logging all his practice hours, Saleeby is playing in at least 10 golf tournaments during his summer break.
“You learn from each tournament you’re in and become mentally stronger,” Saleeby said.
He knows it will be a challenge to repeat as state champion, but he says the competition is his favorite part of the game.
“I will definitely try to defend my title next year. It’s a really big tournament and it has a lot of big players and I’ll definitely try as hard as I can,” Saleeby said.
There has never been a freshman 4A winner who kept the title all four years of high school.
“It would not surprise me if Stephen won several multiple state titles before he graduates from high school,” said Anderson Marlowe, Broughton golf coach. “He is that good, and he still has room for improvement.”
Marlowe also points to Saleeby winning the East Regional tournament at a challenging Raleigh Country Club course the week before he won the state championship on Pinehurst No. 8.
“I feel that he plays his best golf on tough courses as they tend to separate the great player from the average player,” Marlowe said.
At the club
Saleeby’s home turf where he spends his days playing and practicing is North Ridge Country Club. He says he can’t remember a time when he wasn’t playing golf there.
“I picked it up and started playing and then I started playing well,” Saleeby said.
Saleeby’s father describes his son as self-motivated from a young age.
“We’ve never pushed him or said you have to go to the golf course,” Steve Saleeby said. “He begs to go play even on a rainy day or a cold day.”
While he has three years of high school matches and tournaments to go, the younger Saleeby is already hearing from colleges, and he intends to play at the collegiate level.
Saleeby says his golfing inspiration is Webb Simpson, this year’s U.S. Open winner, a Broughton alum who played at Wake Forest University on an Arnold Palmer scholarship.
“Everything about him is awesome,” Saleeby said. “On and off the course, he is a great guy.”
And Saleeby says he tries to be the same.
“I practice as much as I can and play as hard as I can. And I just try to stay on the right path in life.”