Teams play through despite many traps Golf: Despite not being recognized by the county board of education, 10 public dTC school golfers will be participating in the state championship tomorrow in College Park.

October 18, 1998|By Rick Belz | Rick Belz,SUN STAFF

Where there's a will there's a way.

Ten Howard County high school golfers, one of them the District V champion, will compete in the two-day state tournament starting tomorrow at the University of Maryland.

That's a pretty neat trick, because the Howard County Board of Education eliminated its high school golf program after the 1994 season.

So how can the 10 golfers from Mount Hebron, Centennial and Atholton be competing for state championships? And why doesn't the county have a program?

Quick answers: A volunteer organization and an understanding state athletic association, budget cuts and Title IX, the 1972 federal law that mandated gender equity in college athletics and by extension affects high schools, as well.

Former Hammond golf coach Mike Mongelli and volunteer parents rescued the high school golf program in 1995 without school board support. They called their replacement the Howard County Golf Club, and this fall, eight of the county's 10 public high schools had teams.

The Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association permits the Howard golfers to participate in its postseason championships despite the school board's lack of support.

"I feel really sorry for the kids, that the county doesn't recognize them," Mongelli said. "The reason I got involved is that I can't stand to see a kid neglected. This is an educational program for kids, yet it's missing from a school system that's one of the tops in the country."

The need for the volunteer program originated when the bottom fell out of the county school budget in the early 1990s. Tough times lasted long enough to claim two sports programs as victims -- golf and gymnastics.

"We cut the two programs with the fewest people involved and with the highest cost per student," said Don Disney, the county's coordinator of athletics.

Parents of gymnasts subsequently filed a Title IX complaint over the elimination of that predominantly female sport, and the Office of Civil Rights found the county in violation.

The law requires the county's sports program have the same numbers of girls participating as boys. It didn't.

"Because golf is predominantly played by boys, by law we couldn't add a golf program now even if we wanted to," Disney said.

Howard's volunteer golf program is the only one in the state. Cecil County and Baltimore are the only school jurisdictions in Maryland without high school golf.

"Not having a program has been a major disappointment in my relationship with the Howard County education system," said Tom Evans, a volunteer coach whose son plays for Centennial.

Mongelli solicits free playing time from county golf courses. The parents pay other costs. The teams play at Timbers of Troy in the fall and at Turf Valley in the spring. One advantage of an independent program is the spring and fall league schedule. School-sponsored programs play only in the fall.

"If not for guys like Nick Mangione, the owner of Turf Valley, and Craig Day, the head pro, and head pro Tom Saatkoff at Timbers, there wouldn't be a program," said Mongelli, who was Middle Atlantic PGA junior golf director for five years. "They have been very cordial to us and taken care of us."

"It's great, what Mr. Mongelli is doing in giving us a chance," said Mount Hebrons' Scott Zielinski, this fall's county champion. "The only problem is that the schools don't recognize it. Our team won the county the last three seasons, but there was never an announcement at school. There's no trophy allowed in the trophy case. You can't earn a varsity letter, and that keeps you from earning enough points to make the National Honor Society.'

Zielinski took the county title after winning a three-hole playoff against teammate Adam Boarman at Fairway Hills.

"It was a tight course, and I won by hitting a lot of greens and keeping it in play," said Zielinski, who won his first title.

Atholton's Bobby Steen won this fall's District V golf championship at Timbers of Troy over 173 other players from Harford, Carroll, Anne Arundel and Howard Counties.

The senior admits to a home-course advantage.

"I had been playing that course two times a week, so I really knew where to hit it, and most the others didn't," said Steen, who lives in the Laurel area and also is an outstanding ice hockey player. He normally shoots in the mid-70s and also won the county championship a year ago.

Brian Shin and Matt Laun also qualified for states from Mount Hebron, as did Centennial's entire four-man team of Jim Evans, Sean Ledonne, Pat Schaffer and Andy Eckert. Atholton's Erin Caffery was the only county girl to qualify.

Pub Date: 10/18/98

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