Scrambling for a chance to practice

March 28, 2014

The Cape Henlopen High School golf team continued to find innovative ways to prepare for their spring season, still delayed by yet more snow.

The Vikings' spring opening match against Polytech, originally set for March 26, fell victim to the elements. It is being rescheduled for a later date.

Weather permitting, Cape’s new date for the first competitive round is set for April 1 - perhaps fittingly so.

The Vikings are to travel to Rookery North in Milford for a rare tri-meet against Laurel and Lake Forest.

In the meantime, the continued bad weather put a premium on finding enough exposed turf on which to hit a white golf ball without losing sight of it in the snow.

Coach Claudio Smarrelli found a nice patch of open ground on the former football field behind Lewes Middle School, where he said 90 percent of the turf was green enough.

Smarrelli told the players to practice hitting golf balls through and under the goal posts. He also had the Vikings chip balls with their wedges, both close to and into a 55-gallon trash container.

He called it improvising, but I think it could end up being a genius move. The kids should be able to visualize that same shot when they are out on the golf course, which could really help their short game.

Smarrelli brought up once again the idea of switching golf to a fall schedule. However, DIAA chief Kevin Charles has made short work of the notion whenever he and I have discussed it.

Charles noted that high school golf in Delaware depends on the generous hospitality of the golf courses in the state. Those golf courses also host fundraiser tournaments and outings that generate cash for the course owners. Fall in Delaware is prime outing weather.

It’s hard for free to compete against cash under any circumstances.

If Delaware’s springs continue to act more like winter in future years, we may see tri-meets or other options adopted to complete a competitive schedule in seven or eight weeks. The current 10-week schedule that makes up the spring scholastic golf season up through the state championship tournament has mostly worked, but the lingering cold weather certainly presents an early season challenge.

Annals of golf economics

A March 14 Superior Court property tax appeal decision provided a glimpse into the troubled state of public golf during the current alleged economic recovery.

Odessa National Golf Course, in lower New Castle County, is one of the newer public golf courses in Delaware. The layout sits among hundreds of acres of new residential subdivisions, which had their own troubles with selling during the recession.

New Castle County’s tax assessors valued Odessa National as worth $5,392,100 in June 2011. The property also has a unique deed restriction on it: if the land ever stops being used as a public-access golf course, it reverts to “open space in perpetuity.” The only way to escape that development restriction is to go back before County Council for permission to do something else with it.

Odessa National’s owners appealed the assessment, claiming that in 2011 it operated at a net loss of just under $429,000. They suggested these dismal results called for a $0 assessment. As an alternative, they submitted a bank’s appraisal performed in September 2012, suggesting a current market value of $1,975,000.

The appeals board refused to hear the proffered evidence about lowered values, for technical reasons. The board also denied a second argument suggesting that the use restriction caused the property to be tax exempt.

On appeal, Superior Court Judge Paul Wallace affirmed the board’s decision about the tax exemption argument. On the other hand, he also ruled that the board should have considered the merits of the overvaluation claim, and he reversed and remanded the case back to the board for further proceedings.

The fact that Odessa National ran at a loss in 2011 may be more indicative of the folks running it at the time than a true measure of the property’s worth. The owners have a much better argument by relying on the testimony of expert appraisers.

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