The KHSAA Board of Control voted last week to amend the change made in February to the state golf tournament.
“I wasn’t going to be happy either way with two horrifyingly bad options,” Central Hardin coach Paul Gray said. “Neither of the options are good. Reinstating play five, count four only makes sense because that’s what you had to do. The problem is removing a region runner-up team means you are removing a prospective state champion. The girls from Lexington Christian won the state championship last year and they were a region runner-up team. It happened the year before on the boys’ side with Lexington Christian.
“Can you imagine either Trinity or St. X is not going to make the state tournament? They’ll probably get several individuals in through the seven qualifying spots, but to not have a Trinity or St. X team in the state tournament is insanity. One team from that region is a crime.”
The Board of Control voted:
s That four or five players may be entered at the region level with the lowest four scores constituting a team score.
s The winning team at the region qualifying for the state tournament with four to five golfers comprising a team at the state tournament with the lowest four scores comprising the team score and team substitution provisions remaining as they are in current rules
s That for 2019 and 2020, the next seven individual finishers not on the qualifying team advance to the state tournament
s That only the 12 qualifying regional winners are eligible for the team championship regardless of the number of individuals that quality from a team at region play
s That pace of play, both from a length of the round and individual hole standards be a continued emphasis with staff reviewing with Golf House of Kentucky the need for continual emphasis and the KHSAA producing, well in advance, additional hole-by-hole pace of play guidance for the state championship course
s That continual review be done of the alignment in golf to determine the options for increasing the number of regions as a means of enticing newer programs to be created and older ones expanded due to advancement opportunities as well as addressing region entry over-crowding issues
s That the regional advancement formula for individuals be reviewed after 2020 in the event of the need for adjustment in state qualifying based on region size for the future
s That following the 2020 tournament, any further adjustments be implemented with a process for continual review
s That all 12 region qualifying teams will play both rounds of the state tournament
s The top 42 individuals from the first day of play (plus any ties involving the 42nd position).
“My concern comes from the process of seeking input on things in most all sports — or not seeking input at all — then making changes that seem to be more for convenience than for the student/athletes,” said first-year Elizabethtown boys’ coach Alex Todd, who has coached also basketball, football, softball and track totaling 46 seasons. “This issue ended up on national news and in legislative hearings. State sports decisions should not get that far before you realize this is probably not a good idea.
“Are we interested in growing the sport? Or getting through the season to be able to get to the next sport — and on and on? As an old school guy, I hate losing the team aspect of anything. Society has done enough of that for most of us. The decision has eliminated a team from going to state. To me, it is special to succeed individually, but doing it with teammates is even more special.”
The Board of Control voted in February to cut the boys’ and girls’ state tournaments to 144 players each and eliminate one player from the team competition, meaning playing four, scoring four.
“I appreciate the KHSAA listening to the public and official outcry regarding their decision and partially reversing it prior to the season that their initial policy was going to impact adversely,” first-year North Hardin girls’ coach Rich Rowland said. “When it comes to the team championship, first you have to be in that position at the end of the season, but I’m glad that we do not have to make a cut at the end of the season and I hope we never do, because that’s essentially what the KHSAA was asking us to do.”
The state tournaments are slated for Bowling Green Country Club Oct 7-9 (girls) and Oct. 10-12 (boys).
“Clearly there were many issues identified not only with the prior format, but also other issues surrounding golf and participation levels as the board conducted its first comprehensive review of golf in many years,” KHSAA Commissioner Julian Tackett said in a statement. “There are no easy answers. KHSAA Championships are not simply for elite programs and schools flush with participants and historic past performances, nor are they solely for team competition. The Board has the daunting requirement of also ensuring there is an opportunity for students from all levels of involvement, whether the school has one golfer on their roster or 40.
“The board has charted a course to address these issues and looked at many options. Clearly, it is not the role of the KHSAA to rigidly implement copies of events at other levels of play, and we are thankful when our students get the opportunity at those levels. But for the vast majority of high school students, there will be no college or professional opportunities and for the 94 percent who won’t play competitively after high school (per NCAA statistics), it is critical that all of them have opportunities to experience the best participation opportunity around, a high school postseason championship.”
Chris Adams coached golf at Central Hardin from 2002-2014, was on the state golf advisory board from 2006-2015, when the KHSAA stopped doing advisory board meetings before reconstituting the golf board completely. He was a founding director of the Kentucky Golf Coaches Association and currently serve as a Board Member and the Secretary for the association.
“I’m not a big fan (of the changes), mainly because it still cuts the number of players at the state tournament, which is decreasing total participation,” he said. “I know that there are some people and schools around here who like it, because it gives more individuals the opportunity to go to state, but cutting that runner-up team isn’t helping grow the sport either.
“When this was brought up in 2006-2007 to the advisory board about cutting the runner-ups, we actually looked at how many times a region runner-up was making the cut and how many times they had won the state tournament. Using the data we had at the time, we were able to convince the KHSAA that it wasn’t a good idea then.”
Gray is not a fan of 12 teams getting a pass to Day 2.
“In a tournament there’s a cut, and that’s one of the neat things about the state tournament is to make to to the second day as a team or as an individual because you know you made the cut,” he said. “We made it to Day 2 back in 2011, when we were 10th and the top 11 teams made it back then. I think this is making the second day a little less prestigious. You should have to play at a certain level to qualify for the second day.
“The team competition is being watered down and in some way sacrificed to have a couple of other good individual golfers. There will be some powerhouse programs that will not make it as a team and how does that make the state tournament better?”
The other big argument the KHSAA is making is reducing players equals a better pace of play.
Coaches aren’t buying it.
“The biggest complaint that the coaches association board has had, and has heard from our members, is that there really hasn’t been a cry to cut the numbers, and why the choice of 144 players?” Adams said. “This only cuts two tee times per side on Day 1 of the tournament, which isn’t a huge time saver. Also, there was never a presentation of where the data came from that was used to decide on the 144 number.”
Added Todd, “I had a seventh-grade son participate in the state tournament two years ago and I didn’t see a pace of play problem. If there is one, I personally like the idea of adding another layer of competition. Every team participates in a district tournament. Qualifiers participate in region tournament, and then qualifiers from region participate in state tournament.”
That’s also on the agenda down the road.
“The commissioner actually admitted last week that they had discussed with other states how they set up their golf postseason, and that no one else has a single qualifying step before the state tournament,” Adams said. “Every other surrounding state that has just one class for golf uses multiple rounds of qualifying to get there. While he noted that Kentucky does have a bigger field than the other states, even at 144, those other states get there by having more rounds to qualify to get there, thus improving the opportunity to play more in the postseason.
“He did state to the interim committee on education at the state legislature that the KHSAA is open to considering another round of play, either before region or after it (district or semistate) which would allow more players to gain postseason experience, and could be something a lot more people in the golf community would get behind. We’re hoping that they do look at that after this year.”
Said Rowland, “The commissioner pointed out that golf isn’t just for elite schools with tremendous team competition, that there are very talented individuals who don’t make the cut because we had to draw the line somewhere, and with that I agree; however, I still believe that the KHSAA should be doing a substantially better job of promoting secondary and tertiary sports such as golf. I think, personally, there were/are other options that weren’t fully explored or entertained, and I hope when we go back to the drawing board here in a couple of years the KHSAA asks the people in the trenches to join them at the discussion table.”
Gray said that off the top of his head he believed in the last 20 years that a region runner-up team has won the state title close to one-third of the time.
“I think this is a dramatic decision to make for our state,” he said.
“Golf is uniquely an individual and team sport, I don’t think we are quite there yet in balancing that out,” Todd said.