By Ryan Herrington
*(A version of this story appears in the Sept. 23 issue of Golf World)
Five seasons removed from men's college golf incorporating match play to crown the team winner at the NCAA Division I Championship—a decision that continues to foster healthy debate over its merits—the women's game will follow suit starting in 2014-15.
The NCAA Championship/Sports Management Cabinet approved a recommendation from the women's D-I golf committee to switch from the long-standing 72-hole stroke-play format to a stroke-play/match-play mix that will look much like the men's event. Whether it will be identical, however, is still to be determined.
The original women's plan was to copy the men's six-day structure that will be used in 2013-14. Teams would play 54 holes of stroke-play competition with the low eight schools advancing to a match-play bracket. A fourth day of stroke play would be contested for the low 36 female golfers and ties to identify an individual champion. The two final days would be match play to determine the team title.
Several women's coaches, however, questioned having a fourth day of stroke-play competition, something the men are employing for the first time this season. Some prefer three days of stroke play and contesting match play over three days. With the NCAA's approval, the women's golf committee will seek further input before making a final recommendation for the NCAA championship cabinet to act on at its February 2014 meeting.
Additionally, the women will add a fourth NCAA regional tournament in 201415, with six teams advancing from each region to nationals along with three individuals. Also approved was the change in the date formula for when the NCAA women's championship will be held in the future. The standard formula will be to begin the championship on the third Friday in May, except during years in which May 1 falls on a Friday (2015, 2020, 2026), which would result in the championships beginning on the fourth Friday in May.
The 2015 dates will be May 22-27 at The Concession GC in Sarasota, Fla., the same location that the men's D-I championship will be played the following week.