Last year, Indian River’s golf program surged from anonymity to establish itself among the Henlopen elite. They won 10 of their last 11 matches to garner12-4 record before falling to Sussex Tech 234-242 in the Henlopen Championship. Snd Indian River is definitely gearing up for a return trip to the big dance.
Last year, Head Coach Neal Beahan had the luxury of great depth, which allowed him to shuffle golfers in and out of the starting lineup. While this year’s team will be competitive, it won’t be quite as stocked.
The Indians return an experienced nucleus of Justin Albright, Richard Webster, Craig Conover, Billy Powell and Matt Binsted but lose valuable depth and experience in Colton Jensen, Graham Essender and Jordan Hale.
Hale shot a team-low 88 in their fourth-place showing at last season’s climatically dreary conference tournament. The weather was nasty, but Beahan noted that it was Hale’s preparation and experience that put them over the edge.
“It was a really nasty day to play golf and I told them keep warm, bring an umbrella and clean their clubs, and it seemed to work for Jordan,” said Beahan. “It was good to see Jordan shoot well because he hasn’t done as well as he would’ve liked this season. He wasn’t that far off from being the course medalist — I think the winner had a score of 80.”
Behind his top five golfers, Beahan has a few untested underclassmen who could figure into the equation this year, in sophomore Dan Elliot and freshmen Rob Webster and Thomas Brady.
To facilitate the learning curve, Beahan matched up the underclassmen with his more experienced players.
Now, if a player is sick or can’t make a match, Beahan will have to turn to his inexperience bench, instead of a battle-tested veteran. Their conference championship match ended up coming down to a tie-breaker, which is the fifth golfer, and Beahan wants to cultivate some strength there to replace the veterans who have moved on.
“I may have to call on some of the younger guys to go into the fire this year,” said Beahan. “I want to ease them in there. I just hope some of our experience rubs off on them. Golf and tournament golf are two different animals.”
Indian River’s golf team isn’t the only one getting a new look — they have rejoined Cripple Creek Golf and Country Club after a one-year hiatus due to renovation of the putting greens.
They also will mix it up and play at Bear Trap, as well, but it’s the Cripple Creek course that will likely make the difference. Because it’s a private course, Indian River will have exclusive course knowledge and the ultimate advantage over other teams.
“If you don’t do your homework (about the course) and come in cold then you’re not prepared to play,” said Beahan. “Playing our matches at Cripple Creek will be the same as when we go up to play at Maple Dale. We can’t just go there and practice because it’s a private course.”