Huge turnout for 2023 Cape golf team
A record-setting crowd of junior golfers appeared at Rehoboth Beach Country Club Feb. 27, the first day of practice for the 2023 Cape Henlopen Vikings.
Thirty-five players spread across the RBCC practice range and putting green as small craft advisory-level winds blew in from Rehoboth Bay.
I have never seen this many kids come out in 25 years of covering the team. With only six golfers competing in each match, this is a nice problem to have and a real challenge to identify the best golfers for the competitions.
Last year’s squad finished with a 14-4 record and fourth place in the Henlopen Conference Championship. The Vikings also joined 10 other schools for the state championship, just missing the team cut after the first round.
Senior Ethan Mercer and sophomore Jacob Gabbard lead the veterans from last season. Both competed in past conference and state tournaments. Tyler Healy transferred to Cape from last year’s state championship Sussex Academy team.
Most of the new golfers also competed for other Cape teams, including cross country, soccer, swimming, indoor track, wrestling and lacrosse. Those experiences will enhance their golfing talents, both mentally and physically.
After a week of practice and playing, head coach Robert Harrod faced the challenge of how best to deal with the group’s size and playing potential. Thankfully, the owners of Midway Par 3 stepped up and made their course available for the team, creating a great opportunity.
As Harrod explained, the “playing group” will continue practicing at RBCC, competing for playing spots. The “training group” will practice at Midway, developing their skills and potentially contending for spots in the playing group.
Harrod compared the arrangement to English football’s promotion/relegation system. Each golfer has a chance to learn the game and contribute to the team’s success.
The other golfer tryouts included seniors Luke Dennis, Dru Shneider and Shane Whitham, and juniors Madison Mastriana, Luca Miller, Paul Reed and Chris Runde.
The sophomore contingent included Gianna Brown, Sawyer Carter, Dalen Daminger, Blake Frye, Logan Gamuciello, Edward Ghabour, Travers Johnson, Bret Miller, Victoria Miller, Tyler Mitchell, Quinn Rae, Joseph Skelly and Brendan Staggs.
Freshmen golfers included George Becker, Kingston Davis, Dominic Fuscellaro, Chad Hughey, Sarah Lester-Stranick, Brian Lloyd and Madelyn Riccio-Hummell.
The Vikings’ coaching contingent also expanded. In addition to Harrod and longtime assistant coach William Geppert, Cape school psychologist Michael Yanchus joined the paid staff.
New volunteer coach Lisa Hutchins, a past club champion at Shawnee Country Club and The Rookery, focuses her efforts toward the five girls on the team. David Yentzer of Rehoboth Beach is a retired federal manager and a member of the U.S. Golf Teachers Federation. Tim Gabbard of Lewes is helping with the training group. Former Cape golfer Reed Jones also returned to volunteer coaching, along with yours truly.
Harrod expressed deep appreciation for the help provided by Rehoboth Beach CC and Midway to support Cape’s scholastic golf program.
The Vikings will host Smyrna Wednesday, March 22, for the opening match at RBCC.
TopTracer focusing on skill development
Golf course and driving range operators are going more upscale with installations of ball-tracking systems such as TopTracer.
I spoke with TopTracer National Sales Director Alex Goodman during Demo & Fitting Day at the 2023 PGA Show. He described the system elements and benefits to players, and the businesses serving them.
TopTracer markets two primary systems – fixed and mobile. The fixed systems use twinned sets of four cameras total, installed on poles about 100 feet apart and separated by designated hitting bays. Bay location data is obtained by total station survey systems and “mapped into the virtual backend,” Goodman said.
Dedicated weatherproofed monitors at each bay provide easy-to-use interfaces for a variety of playing options. Goodman said, “We try to keep the user experience as simple and intuitive as possible. The attempt is to minimize the amount of customer interaction needed. Our key is to appeal to the widest range of customers. We provide ball data, but not the data about club face angles and such.”
The mobile units are intended for the “grass tee experience,” he said. These systems use dedicated tablet-sized monitors set on stands adjacent to the hitting locations.
The typical fixed setup includes 10 bays, but the company will adjust for the number desired. The optional shed for the hitting bays is custom designed for each client location. “We’re seeing acceptance of the sheds as part of the range, not necessarily for the entire space,” Goodman said.
In addition to basic ball data, highly useful for gapping sessions, the system provides a variety of game options. These include a driver challenge, a long-drive contest, proximity-to-hole contests and other skill tests.
Goldman also discussed the TopTracer 30 for fixed bays and TopTracer 12 for mobile units. Players attempt a series of varied golf shots, with stored data made available to teaching pros for immediate analysis or scheduled instruction at later times.
System installation averages about six to eight weeks from initial lease signing through the on-site work. Typical contract terms include a minimum five-year lease of required equipment.