Tour helps youngsters improve on their swings

Thanks to two Arnold men, young duffers in the area now have a chance to play tournament golf.

July 27, 2005|By Jeff Seidel | Jeff Seidel,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Arnold residents Mark Tomchik and Pete Regala Jr. came up with what seemed like a simple idea during a conversation three years ago.

After playing golf one day, they were discussing the difficulties of finding places for children to play good tournament golf in the area during the summer. Both realized that starting a tour for junior golfers might draw some interest and prove beneficial for youngsters trying to improve their skills.

The pair got together the next week and laid the groundwork for the Elite Players Tour, based in Anne Arundel County but open to golfers ages 8 to 18 throughout the area. The tour began in summer 2002 with about 160 youngsters taking part, and this summer, the tour has expanded to about 215 golfers.

Before the Elite tour began, the Titleist Junior Golf Tour was the main place for young golfers to compete in tournaments during the summer. Regala and Tomchik both stressed that they didn't want Elite to clash with Titleist; they only wanted to find another outlet for younger golfers.

"The first reason for this is both of us love the game of golf," said Regala, who played at Severna Park High and at the University of Maryland, and later coached at Broadneck High. "I always grew up playing in junior tournaments. We both have kids, and the start of it was we both were looking for the kids [to] play in events."

Tomchik tried to see how much interest there might be in the golfing community before taking the time and money to start a tour. He mailed notes to about 20 people and said he received a strong response that indicated the interest was there.

"It was obvious from the very beginning that there was a need for it," Tomchik said. "It was obvious that it would be successful. It's really rewarding to see these kids come out and play."

Anne Arundel County golfers make up about half of those in the program, which features 10 tournaments over a six-week span during the summer. The one-day tournaments are played at different courses -- five in Anne Arundel County -- throughout Central Maryland and take place during weekdays. Golfers from 8 to 12 years old play nine holes; those through high school age play 18 holes.

The tour is scheduled to end with a championship competition at Hunters Oak Golf Club on Aug. 8 in Queenstown on the Eastern Shore.

Tomchik and Regala want the kids who play in the tournaments to simply work at improving their game, regardless of their age or ability. They're hoping to see the tour get stronger but aren't looking for any huge amount of growth.

Between 85 and 90 golfers show up for each event -- up from about 75 the first year. Players are not required to compete in all events, and family vacations and other interests explain many of the absences.

Tomchik said he wouldn't be surprised to see Elite have a total of about 300 golfers in events next summer.

This project takes plenty of time to put together each summer, and both Tomchik and Regala work at full-time jobs.

Tomchik is the president of a medical supply company that he bought two years ago, and Regala is a full-time real estate agent. Regala used to be a teaching pro before getting out of the sport a few years ago; Tomchik loves to play but never coached or taught at that level.

Both enjoy spending the extra time making the tournament work each summer. Tomchik said the tour's motto is quality competition on premium courses at affordable rates. The tour charges $40 for the 18-hole tournaments and $30 to play in the nine-hole competitions. The price covers greens fees, trophies and other expenses.

"It's one of those things that's just fun for us," Tomchik said. "It's very rewarding. It's not about who holds the trophy, but it's a good time for all."

Diana Woodall, soon to be a senior at South River High, is one of the teenagers who benefited from the 3-year-old tour. She played on the school's golf team during her first three years, making the public school state tournament each time. She has used the Elite tour as a way to sharpen her skills during the summer months.

Woodall has placed in the top three during each of the five events she played in this summer. Her best finish came recently when she won the 18-hole tournament at the Crofton Country Club.

"It's really great," Woodall said. "I really like how we get to play with people from all over the state. It helps me get ready for the high school season."

Regala and Tomchik are confident that their tour is on solid ground now, although they have done little advertising and relied strongly on word of mouth and fliers in the golf community.

"We do have room to grow, but we're definitely happy where we are," Regala said. "The turnouts we're getting are tremendous."

Elite Players Tour

Courses played this summer by members of the Anne Arundel County-based Elite Players Tour:

Eisenhower Golf Course, Crownsville

Marlton Golf Club, Upper Marlboro

Timbers at Troy, Elkridge

Uplands Golf Club, Denton

Pine Ridge Golf Course, Timonium

South River Golf Club, Edgewater

Crofton Golf Club, Crofton

Prospect Bay, Grasonville

Renditions Golf Course, Davidsonville

Glen Dale Country Club, Bowie

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