KHSAA changes in golf state qualifying process draws criticism

KHSAA’s Board of Control met last Tuesday, Feb. 19, and one topic that has garnered a lot of attention were changes to the state golf qualifying process. A decision that came about, according to the Board of Control, that followed “nearly a full year of review of the manner in which the postseason championships are conducted in the sport.

The current golf format is the top two teams from each region (four or five players), along with the top four girls at-large and top three boys at-large from each region, qualify for state. In January, the Board decided to revise the state qualifying team to four players.

KHSAA states that the change came along with the approval of a revised 12-region alignment for both boys and girls in an effort to get the majority of schools from the same basketball region into the same golf region…”even if there are not sixteen golf regions, and addresses several longstanding geographic imbalances and placements.

The decision KHSAA states came about over “long-standing concerns over the pace of play in championship competition, particularly in the late fall.

The new state qualifying rules state…the four-person winner and runner-up teams from each region, plus an additional four at-large qualifiers from each region (plus tied players from that region if such ties exist) advance to state. The change also allows for 12 additional individual qualifiers from regions throughout the state in boys’ golf and brings two more teams and four more qualifying individuals to the girls’ state tournament.

Approved at Tuesday’s meeting, according the KHSAA from a variety of feedback received, teams may enter up to five golfers in the regional tournament with the four lowest scores making up the teams final score. This is the way tournaments throughout the season and the regional and state tournaments have been conducted. The change, however, comes with the decision that only the four lowest scoring players at the regional tournament will advance as a team to the state tournament, thus leaving out the fifth lowest scoring player who in many cases changes throughout the season.

The fifth-place finisher could still qualify for the state championship as an individual in one of the top four at-large spots. In the event of illness or injury to a team member, a coach may substitute from their roster before the final pairings are set in the state tournament.

Many from across the state and country are weighing in on this decision. The Golf Channel called it “a bizarre decision” and Professional Justin Thomas, the fourth ranked professional in the world and member in high school of the St. Xavier golf team said on Twitter…”Do the right thing here @KHSAA. This is a really bad decision. Change it back and make it right!

PGA Tour Pro and analyst Steve Flesch said…”this is not growing the game or encouraging youth…totally idiotic to make a region champ and runner-up leave a man home.

KHSAA Commissioner Julian Tackett in a statement, dismissed the call by many in the golf world to reverse their decision as “Twitter noise“. Tackett told the Lexington Herald-Ledger on Thursday – “Some of the feedback is not surprising in that it has come from the same core group of people who pushed for change earlier this year that would have eliminated many golfers throughout the commonwealth from the state field to the benefit of the long-established programs.

Tackett told the Lexington Herald-Ledger he doesn’t anticipate re-visiting the changes before the fall golf season begins.