News & ToursFebruary 22, 2019

Kentucky board doubles down on controversial high school golf decision, calls criticism misinformed and Twitter noise

Golfers hit sweeping golf course in the summer
torwaiGolfers hit sweeping golf course in the summer

A resolution to improve pace of play at the Kentucky high-school golf tournament has backfired, with many voices—including Justin Thomas—blasting the proposition. But rather than hear out the detractors, it appears the state's Board of Control is doubling down on the matter.

The issue in question involves how many players can start for a team in the state event. Under the old format, 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, bringing the field to 144 players.

“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.

However, parents and coaches have countered that it means less kids get the opportunity to play in the state tournament. The coaches favor a different proposal of three pods — Regions 1-4, Regions 5-8 and Regions 9-12 — and each pod would advance four teams (of five) and six individuals to the “state finals,” for a total of 24 five-person teams and 36 individuals for a 156-person field.

A sentiment backed by 2017 PGA champ 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!"

Alas, not only is the board sticking with the plan, Tickett is dismissing any and all opposition.

“The feedback from those who do not know the structure of our Board (being from all areas of the state) and particularly those who pick up on one Twitter line and decide to blast their opinion could be considered just typical ‘noise’ around our business,” Tackett said to the Herald-Leader. “And 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.

“Our Board creates its championships to be representative of the entire state, not to necessarily create an elitist, best of the best field. Golf is no exception."

Tackett said there will be no re-evaluation of the rule for the upcoming season, not until data is gathered after the fact.

“My past experience with the Board is that these revisions are done, we will run our events a while and then do what we always do, constantly evaluate," Tackett said.

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