IR golf swings into action with season-opening win
The Indian River varsity golf team made great strides last year, defeating Dover for the first time in the program’s history and finishing 11-2 to secure the Southern Henlopen Division championship. They began the new spring season this past Tuesday, March 27, with a 196-238 win over Smyrna, but head coach Paris Mitchell Sr. will still have his work cut out for him if he plans to match last year’s performance.
“We’re getting back into the swing of things,” said Mitchell. “For the most part, the weather’s been great, and our golfers are getting out there and getting loosened up. But we only have three returning starters this season, so we’re hoping that some of the younger ones step up and fill the roles.”
Matt Tribbitt, Holden Wingate, Smith Purdum and Andrew Kleinstuber are among last year’s seniors who have left some holes in the lineup that the Indians must fill, though returning starters Taylor Lewis, Dillon Baker and Dominic Constantino have already begun to take the reins. They shot 42, 49 and 54, respectively, this week, and Lewis earned medalist status for the opening match of the season with the lowest score overall. Christian Constantino shot a 51, while Carter Pruitt scored a 55 and Matt Mudry holed a 64 in the win over Smyrna.
In weeks leading up to the 2012 season, the team has been hitting the home course at Cripple Creek.
“Our main focus,” said Mitchell, “is on working with each player and seeing what they need to improve, individually. [Assistant coach Bill] Wingate and myself have been taking a few golfers out at a time each day to see what aspects of their game needs extra attention. Taylor’s getting some more power on her swing, and Dominic is has grown and is developing a lot at practice. We ought to see some really good things from the returning players.”
While the three returning starters will headline the six-player roster, several others, including three promising freshmen, will be in the rotation for the starting spots.
“We’ll have a few swing players,” Mitchell said. “I want to try to get as many of them into matches that I can, so that they’ll get that experience and know what to expect in the next seasons.”
Five of the Indians’ 13 scheduled matches will be played at home, while eight will be on the road, but as Mitchell noted, that shouldn’t be a deterrent.
“We play pretty well on other teams’ courses,” he stated. “It doesn’t seem to bother these guys.”
By the middle of the season last year, Indian River had been bested by Milford and Caesar Rodney, bringing their record to 5-2, but a midseason turnaround helped the Indians win out to secure the division, as they closed the schedule 6-0, including a one-stroke victory over Sussex Tech.
“After the loss to Caesar Rodney,” said Mitchell, “I told our team that they just had to play within themselves. CR is one of the best teams in the state, and we played as well against them as we did against other teams. You’re always going to have a little nervousness up against the best there is, but they played their hardest and we finished strong. If we bring that same intensity, I think we can do just as well as we did last season, and if we continue to improve, we might be able to even do better.”
This year’s competition looks to be another tough one, but Mitchell is up for the challenge.
“The South was a little weak last season,” he said, “and I think we definitely have a shot of winning it again this year, but teams like Sussex Tech and Caesar Rodney are loaded again. We proved last year that we could compete with them, but we’ll have to be ready this year.”
The Indians’ golf season continued this week against Laurel, and the team will head to Maple Dale on Tuesday, April 3, where they will face Dover, then Woodbridge at Heritage Shores, on Thursday, March 5.