May 23, 2003
Jerry Dorneman, Cape Henlopen High School’s golf coach, is retiring this spring after 30 years of teaching, but he might just show up a few times next year as a volunteer coach for the Vikings.
“I’ll come back and help out, especially on the warm, sunny days,” Dorneman told me in a recent interview.
Then he laughed.
The 51-year-old Industrial Arts/Technology/Ceramics/Health teacher at Cape gave a simple explanation for his relatively early retirement: “It’s been thirty years. I started teaching immediately after my bachelors [degree] and one term of grad school. I never really left school, basically.”
Dorneman is originally from State College, Pennsylvania. After finishing high school in 1969 he went immediately to the hometown college, Penn State. In 1973 Dorneman came to the Cape Region for eminently practical reasons: “The district made me the best paying job offer at the time–$6,400 and change.”
His path to coaching the successful golf team at Cape took a bit more time.
Dorneman only began playing golf himself as a college senior, and he didn’t take it seriously. “I like to play with people that I know. To me it’s a social thing. I’m not into the tournament scene. When I came here I would play the public courses on occasion. Steve Wolak then joined Shawnee Country Club, and in 1990 I joined the club and started playing a lot more. We’re friends, and I’d play with him and another Cape teacher, Tom Markell.”
A few years later, Dorneman began helping Wolak, by then the head golf coach for Cape. “I volunteered for a year or two, and after that Steve called me the co-head coach, which is how I began to get paid for it.”
When Wolak left the District several years ago, Dorneman took over the reins. Cape teacher Corey Groll and others have been his assistants for the last few years. Groll applied for the open coaching position for next year.
“Coaching high school golf requires more than one person. There is too much room for problems to develop when there’s only the one coach,” Dorneman said.
We talked a bit about the teaching part of being the golf coach. “Most kids have trouble remembering all the golf rules. I stress the main problems that will come up, such as out-of-bounds, cart path relief, the ground-under-repair drop, and the yellow/red stakes for hazards. I try to deal with the rules on a situational basis, as the kids play. That way they have a better chance of remembering.”
Dorneman didn’t hesitate with his answer to the question of what was the worst part of coaching golf: “Wet. Cold, rainy, wet weather, when you really want to be indoors with a hot cocoa—or something stronger,” he laughed.
He was also ready with his answer to the question of what were the best parts of his coaching experience.
“I really enjoyed playing golf with the kids, especially the ones with some real personality. It’s also a big plus to be working with kids who really want to be there, which doesn’t always happen in the classroom.”
“It’s also great just to see the smiles when these kids do something really special, like earlier this year when Tyler [Witman] shot his 29, or a week or so ago when John Purple got his first medalist score with his 35.”
Dorneman’s post-teaching plans continue to include golf. He’s about to start building his own house on a large lot he owns near Milton, and then expand the construction business he’s operated each of the last 30 summers. Once his house is complete, Dorneman expects to return to another favorite hobby, gardening, with the new plantings to include a golf hole. “The lot’s wide enough for a full sand wedge,” he smiled.
Now there’s a reason to own an acre and a half.