For years, the NCAA tournament has been the pinnacle of collegiate athletics. The fact that the NCAA has had women’s golf play unofficial for the last several years, and recently discontinued the tournament altogether, has created a firestorm of controversy. Some college golf coaches have said that they feel they were betrayed by the NCAA, while others have felt that it was the right decision.
On April 10, the NCAA announced it would cancel a women’s golf regional, originally scheduled for April 13-15 at the LaSalle Golf Links in northern Illinois, due to inclement weather that was likely to hit the area that weekend. The decision came after the Big Ten Conference, which sends its women’s golf championship to the golf course that weekend, announced that it would not reschedule the event. The University of Wisconsin, which was scheduled to host the regional, offered to take the event, but the NCAA and the Big Ten declined.
The NCAA men’s golf regional was in deep trouble, but with one last round to play, it looked like it might still make it to the national championship. The women’s golf regional was cancelled. The NCAA did that. About a month earlier, it had also cancelled a men’s tournament at the same venue, on the same day, for the same reason. It did the same thing with the same “unforeseen circumstances” after the NCAA women’s tournament at the same course was cancelled. The women’s final round was supposed to take place at the same time as the men’s final round. The NCAA did not allow that to happen.
When the NCAA committee decided Wednesday to cancel the women’s regional golf tournament in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, coaches and players were stunned by the way the decision was made.
The University Club golf course received 7 inches of rain in three days and there was water on some holes and in the bunkers all over the course. NCAA committee representative Brad Hurlbut said the field was playable, but not at championship level, leaving coaches wondering what exactly that meant.
I’ve never seen anything like it. I played golf professionally. I have participated in NCAA regional tournaments as a player. I trained him. I played in the U.S. Amateur and I’ve never seen anything like it, said Brandt Kishnick, coach of the Sam Houston women’s golf team. It was a committee and a rules commissioner, and I don’t know why they came to that conclusion, but it’s confusing.
Miami coach Patti Rizzo told SportsCenter on Thursday that she doesn’t like to see the girls in such a tense state.
It should be a memorable and exciting event, said Rizzo, who added that the players were in tears and confused by the decision. It’s a really sad situation.
The teams played a practice round Sunday in dry field conditions. On Monday morning, the first day of the tournament, it was raining and play was suspended at 11:30 a.m. ET.
According to Kieschnick, the sun came out from noon on Monday and there was sunlight until eight o’clock, which would have allowed for later play. However, that option was not discussed, and Kieschnick did not see a maintenance crew trying to get the golf course ready for play.
A similar scenario played out on Tuesday, although the teams got to practice on the field later in the day.
I went around the field a bit; it was playable. The water has receded a bit; we may have to change one hole from par-4 to par-3, Kishnick said. Several of us coaches came to the committee in the middle of the day with questions and said: What can we do for the game? We’ll do whatever it takes.
The coaches have been informed that the bunkers on the course are a problem because the standing water makes them unplayable. The game officials had the ability to mark bunkers that were not playable, thus relieving the players when their ball got into the marked area.
I specifically asked the rules guy why we can’t play what we need to play, Kieschnick said. The answer was: We think that if you don’t play the bunkers, you won’t be the right champion. I said: You have every right to make repairs to this property, after all that is your opinion. You don’t know if that’s the right champion or not, it’s an opinion.
A dozen coaches from the participating teams visited the game committee Tuesday to get some questions answered. The goal was to determine if it was possible to resume golfing and host the tournament before Thursday’s deadline.
The coaches were baffled by the fact that bunkers and standing water were presented as a major problem, but they saw no effort to clean up the water or restore the course. According to Kiesznik and another source, there were no pumps on site to pump water out of the field.
A great coach once said: If the bunkers are the problem, and you’re not doing anything about it, then we need to leave now, Kieschnick said. That was Tuesday. They didn’t want to remove the bunkers, but that happens all the time and we can do it. If the problem is with the bunkers and nothing is done, that is very hard to swallow. It was strange.
Wednesday morning the departure of the teams was delayed, postponed until 10 o’clock and then until 11 o’clock, with no news from the committee.
Kieschnick and several other coaches went to the clubhouse to try to talk to committee members, but they could not reach them and had no communication with them until the final decision to end the tournament was announced Wednesday.
He contacted the NCAA Tuesday night to ask what could be done; he sent a message Wednesday morning asking what would happen next, but got no response; and finally he and his players heard of Hurlbut’s solution.
The NCAA issued a statement Wednesday saying the committee regrets that the regional tournament could not go ahead. Since Wednesday’s game was cancelled, progress will be determined by the first ranking. This means that the best six teams will qualify: The tournament hosts are LSU, Ole Miss, Baylor, Oregon, Maryland and Alabama. The best three athletes who are not on the team will also go to nationals. They are Karen Fredgaard of Houston, Natalia Guseva of Miami and Hannah Alberto of Sam Houston.
Usually tournaments do the best they can for the game of golf, the best they can, Kieschnick said. Once it came, it was all we could do not to play. It’s not ideal to play 18 holes, but it’s better than not playing. It was a shock.
You could hear the players screaming and some crying when it was announced that the tournament had been cancelled. For some, the season is over, but they are left with questions about what could have been or what could have been done differently.
The LSU regionals in Baton Rouge were cancelled because the track was passable, but not at championship level. It’s horrible how this week has gone. ! !!! Every player has worked so hard this week and this is how we are being treated !!!! Shame!!! pic.twitter.com/Z8FGrfYKLN
– Sarah Byrne (@sarabyrne01) May 12, 2021
The NCAA said it had no further comment on the matter.
It shouldn’t disappear because it’s about the lives, the emotions, the feelings, the hard work and the hope of these children, Kieschnick said. The worst part is that these women were denied their season last year because of COVID. They worked hard, they won the first round of the playoffs, and we had a golf course that was playable, but they weren’t allowed to play.
This is the worst thing I have experienced in 15 months with a student athlete.The University of Southern California women’s golf team’s hopes to earn a national championship in March came to an end Tuesday, after the NCAA decided to cancel the regional in Gainesville, Fla.. Read more about 2021 ncaa women’s golf championship and let us know what you think.
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