HUTTON: New IHSAA golf tourney format a drag for local teams
By Mike Hutton firstname.lastname@example.org or 6130141 or @MikeHuttonPT June 4, 2013 11:08PM
Valparaiso's Kyle Meihofer reacts to a missed eagle putt during his round at Beechwood in LaPorte Friday May 10, 2013. | Andy Lavalley~Sun-Times Media
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Updated: July 6, 2013 6:40AM
Valparaiso golf coach Wayne Lichtenberger spent his Saturday during Memorial Day weekend driving to Battleground Golf Course in West Lafayette with his golf team.
Spending a rainy day at a golf course more than 90 minutes away from home on a holiday weekend isn’t Lichtenberger’s idea of a good time.
But he had no choice. The Vikings had to get a peak at the new regional digs before they actually teed it up there and, for a variety of reasons, that Saturday was the only possible time they were going to get a round in.
Let’s just say the new tournament format for golf, which looks like it was crafted in about 30 minutes at the 19th hole of the last state tournament by the Indiana High School Athletic Association administrators, has left Lichtenberger feeling pretty grumpy.
Geography and common sense were applied only sporadically in the new setup.
For instance, Boone Grove heads out to Palmira for the Lake Central Sectional, which has 12 teams, instead of going to Forest Park for the Valparaiso Sectional, which only has 10 teams.
Beechwood in LaPorte has 14 teams — and one of them is Hanover Central — which is a hop, skip and a jump away from Palmira.
Most teams want to avoid Lake Central because it’s the toughest of the three so I’m sure the Wildcats gleefully made the ride to LaPorte.
But Valparaiso could’ve easily accommodated them, too.
What really burns up Lichtenberger is that not only do the teams from Northwest Indiana have to make the long haul out to a golf course they aren’t familiar with but that the Lafayette schools that advance will have played both sectionals and regionals on the same course.
And that Fort Wayne, which has the second largest mass of population in the state now, doesn’t have a regional.
Like I said, someone was in a hurry when deciding to try to get this work done.
And what is left — at least for now — is a great big mess.
“Teams should not host a sectional and a regional,” he said. “It’s not like football or basketball, where a field is a field. It needs to be fair. You should be able to practice on the course. Driving two hours is not reasonable, especially when the only way to get down is on the weekend.”
Lichtenberger, who is part of a two-person committee studying the issue, said they met with the IHSAA in March to air their concerns.
There was no movement from the IHSAA— at least for this year.
But the committee had already drawn up a reasonable plan for the future — one that could be implemented as soon as next year.
The new format lays the state out into five different regions and holds the regionals at various courses that are easily accessible to eligible teams. Essentially, he has divided the state into five regions with Indianapolis getting two regionals.
The smack-dab center of the one for Northwest Indiana would be in Wheatfield at Sandy Pines.
Lichtenberger even called out to the course and its representatives said they’d love to host it.
“I think that would be a great test of golf,” he said.
The new format added two more regionals, which makes it more difficult to qualify for state. Each regional sends the top three teams.
The payback is that all 15 teams that make it get to stay for both days. There is no cut.
Lichtenberger has a theory as to what happened. The whole deal was heavily influenced by the middle of the state because those schools wanted to have the path of least resistance to the state championship.
“I think it’s Indianapolis,” he said. “They really didn’t listen to a lot of coaches.”
For this year, at least, he’s muddling through, and like the Cubs, waiting for next year, when it might just be better.