124th U.S. Open

Pinehurst No. 2

The Loop

NGCA's big weekend in New Orleans

January 14, 2008

NEW ORLEANS--They talked business at this past weekend's National Golf Coaches Association annual convention, a departure of sorts from years past for this jovial group, but a welcome one. With so many changes in women's golf at all levels, a more proactive coaches' association becomes increasingly important to maintain and improve the college game.

So it was then that attendees cleared their throats at the Royal Sonesta Hotel--some just after walking in from Bourbon Street--to engage in debate on a variety of topics. Among the more prominent issues discussed was the use of rangefinders and electronic yardage devices at the NCAA Championship, the new USGA rule that allows two coaches to coach simultaneous during tournaments, allowing coaches on to greens and in bunkers during competitions and recruiting. After each discussion, a straw-poll vote was taken to gage coaches preferences.

Attendees were split dead even regarding rangefinders, while a large majority favored having two coaches be allowed to coach (a measure the NCAA women's golf committee already had approved for 2008). Coaches were unanimous in their support of changing the rules to allow coaches to walk on greens and in bunkers.

Where the most interesting discussion played out, not surprisingly, was recruiting. The majority of coaches were upset with a new NCAA rule that allows two coaches to recruit at the same time, a departure from the "baton rule" where a coach out recruiting had to return to campus before another coach at the school could hit the road. The common fear is that the measure will increase the number of days coaches are on the road recruiting at an even greater pace than is currently happening.

"I'd like to see my daughter grow up," joked NGCA president and Georgia women's coach Kelley Hester, who traveled more than 200 days with her team and recruiting in 2007, the same year she gave birth to her first child. (In the straw poll on whether they wanted to keep the provision to allow two coaches to recruit at the same time, only two coaches of the nearly 100 in attendance voted yes.)

As has been discussed within the last year by the Golf Coaches Association of America, the NGCA's counterpart for men's college golf (and no doubt will be debated again starting today when the GCAA begins its annual convention outside Orlando), the idea of a recruiting calendar was broached as an possible compromise. Such a proposal could come in the form of prohibiting recruiting during certain times of the year or set a mandatory number of days a school can travel to recruit. (In a straw poll vote on this, the majority favored some form of recruiting calendar if the two coaches recruiting ruled stayed in place.)

Of course, there's talk and then there's action. That the NGCA was willing to discuss in such detail these pressing issues was great, but the coaches must hold Hester and NGCA executive director Roger Yaffe to their word that the NGCA board will send recommendations to the NCAA golf committee based on the discussion, and will begin to explore making a proposal through the NCAA legislative process to address recruiting.

Equally exciting for some was news that the NGCA has four events in development it hopes someday can help showcase college golf. All are still very much in the planning stages, according to Yaffe, but he is optimistic that with member support, sponsors can be found and the events can become reality. They include:

â¿¢ A 54-hole All-American Championship with players from Divisions I, II and III participating, likely played in late June or mid-August

â¿¢ A U.S. versus Europe team competition, a la the Palmer Cup, held bi-annually in the year opposite the Curtis Cup.

â¿¢ A U.S. versus Asia team competition, held each summer.

â¿¢ A 54-hole, mixed team event, where a school's team consists of one women's player and one men's player, likely played in early January.

Give credit to Yaffe and Hester for encouraging discussion, fostering dialogue and thinking pro-actively. It's something the GCAA has done in the last few years and something the NGCA should be doing more.