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A high school golf association's attempt to speed up play has left parents—and players like Justin Thomas and Steve Flesch—furious

February 21, 2019
Justin Thomas Genesis Open - Round One

(Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

Okay, so not everyone is in favor of faster pace in golf.

Days after J.B. Holmes' DMV-during-lunchbreak speed reared its ugly head, the Kentucky High School Athletic Association voted this week to make significant changes to the boys and girls state golf tournament aimed at cutting down on time and improving the quality of the competition.

At least, that's how the state's board of control views the modifications. The parents, not so much.

Under the old format, the Kentucky teams were allowed to start five players, with the top four rounds counting towards the score. The new rules eliminate the fifth player, allowing just four to start.

“The fifth player in a lot of situations was the cause of the pace-of-play problems,” state commissioner Julian Tackett said to the Louisville Courier Journal. “They’re just not as good. Now, you have elite programs that their fifth player could be the No. 1 on some teams… By and large, that’s not the case. The 150s on the girls side and the 100 scores on the boys side are generally the fifth-place golfer in a region that may not be as strong.”

Tackett said by eliminating the fifth player—at last year’s state tournaments, 20 boys and 82 girls posted first-round scores of 90 or higher—pace will pick up, and the overall field will be stronger.

"I think you’re going to see a better golfer take the place — in most cases — of a less-talented golfer,” Tackett said. “That’s what you’ve traded here.”

Unfortunately for the board, many students, parents and fans have sounded off on social media on the decision, claiming it's taking a cherished opportunity away from kids. One of the proposal's detractors is Justin Thomas, who played his high school golf in Louisville.

"Do the right thing here @KHSAA. This is a really bad decision," wrote Thomas on Twitter. "A lot of great storylines comes from a 5 man on your team, like we had on ours at Saint X. Change it back and make this right!"

Former pro Steve Flesch, a Kentucky native, also chimed in.

"@KHSAA I’m wondering who in your ranks makes a decision like this," Flesch said. "This is not growing the game or encouraging youth. It’s a tone deaf change for absolutely NO valid reason. Totally idiotic to make a Region Champ and runner-up leave a man home. You have time to reverse this."

While Tackett understands there will be hurt feelings, particularly at elite programs, the board feels it's an approach that will help the sport on the whole."“This board has a challenge here,” Tackett said. “They have to represent those schools that don’t even have a full team. Getting those at-large people is good for some of these schools that only have two or three golfers.”