March 10, 2017
The old adage that March comes in like a lion was true again on March 2, the first day of practice for the 2017 Cape Henlopen High School golf team.
Strong winds off Rehoboth Bay buffeted the young squad as they gathered at the practice green at Rehoboth Beach Country Club. The Cape Region’s previously mild winter was nowhere to be found that day.
Chris Krueger, the Vikings’ new head coach, was himself under the weather, fighting off the vestiges of a bout of flu. Assistant coach George Bushby, the senior assistant golf pro for RBCC, greeted the team for his first experience with coaching high school golf.
Senior Matt Zehner returns to the varsity, one of the two Vikings that played in last year’s state championship. Other returning golfers include Michael Bollig, Brandon Mays-Harp, Kyle Monigle, Ryan Bachman, Abigail Bucklin, Reed Jones, Saxon Kalb, Anthony Koot, Madelyn McGreevy, and Dane Palmer.
The new Vikings are Nolan Brown, Zachary MacFarland, Alyssa Whaley, James Fleegle, Jayson Saldana, Ben Skelley, Luke Mulcahy, Cole Quillen, and Brett Townsend.
Last year’s season was a classic rebuilding year for the Vikings, with several freshmen and sophomores beginning their first experience playing golf.
The 2017 season begins with three straight home matches, starting with Lake Forest at RBCC on March 23. The Vikings then host Laurel March 28 at Kings Creek Country Club, and return to RBCC March 30 to face the team’s traditional rival, the Caesar Rodney Riders.
Greg Norman’s connection to the Cape Region
Two-time British Open winner Greg Norman may be the most consistently successful golf businessman the world has yet known.
The blond Australian, known by golf fans as the White Shark, had an incredibly long run (331 weeks) at the number one position in the golf rankings in the 1980s and 1990s. He parlayed his skills at golf into a wide range of commercial pursuits, including endorsements, wine, golf course design, and clothing. Unlike some other famous athletes, it’s hard to find any missteps in Norman’s business ventures.
In the apparel section of this year’s PGA Merchandise Show, the Greg Norman Collection took up a much larger booth space than most of his competition. That speaks to the broad appeal of the clothing, as well as the company’s successful marketing efforts.
Brendan Tracy, a manager of marketing and ecommerce for Norman, put it very simply: “There’s no escaping the Shark.”
He said that with a broad grin, so I wasn’t too worried.
Tracy took me over to one long wall, and showed off their ML 75 line, which uses a 100% polyester microfiber. He said these shirts are the “best polos out there in the heat, and travel well,” and are among the best-selling items in the Collection. The same fabric is now incorporated into the company’s shorts and slacks.
We discussed the large multi-colored Shark logo seen on the chests of several PGA Tour pros. Tracy said that for the rest of us, a small version of the logo is placed on the back of the neck, just below the collar. However, in reaction to repeated requests, a 3-inch high Shark logo is now available on the left chest.
The current trend in sportswear branding has been to downsize logos, with half-inch or less emblems placed in discrete locations. In this case, however, the market is telling a different story, and Greg Norman is giving the customers what they want.
Tracy said their clothes are sold in 4,000 golf shops, in over 50 countries. He also said that the merchandise tents at the this year’s President’s Cup competition will include five or six merchandise brands, and the Greg Norman Collection is one of them.
If you’ve ever seen the merchandise operations at the U.S. Open, the Masters, or other major events such as the Ryder Cup, you could understand Tracy’s excitement about this new arrangement. It’s almost a license to print money.
We also chatted about Tracy’s other connections to Cape Region golf. He played on the University of Maryland golf team, and was a freshman when Cape Henlopen High School standout and state champion Tyler Whitman was a senior on the Terrapins squad. Tracy’s in-laws, Aileen and Tony Unger, also live at Kings Creek CC.
When time permits, Tracy plays at The National on Long Island, a classic layout. As for playing Kings Creek, his opinion should sound familiar: “Oh my god, that’s a hard, narrow course. That one par-5 [no. 12] kills me every time.”
Prepping for the season
During a recent visit to the Rookery’s pro shop, I watched assistant pro Brandon Laigle putting the finishing touches on a re-gripping. He and fellow assistant Chris Osberg have been kept pretty busy with this traditional start to the new golf season.
If you’re not in the mood to buy new golf clubs, a fresh set of grips can be the next best thing. Your local PGA golf professional can help you decide which of the many different grip sizes and designs will fit both your hands and your game.
While you’re at it, you might also consider signing up for a lesson.