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Hutton: Give girl golfers a break: Let them do circle 10

LaCrosse's Lauren Bailey competes girls golf sectional Valparaiso Country Club Saturday September 21 2013. | Michael Gard/For Sun-Times Media

LaCrosse's Lauren Bailey competes at the girls golf sectional at Valparaiso Country Club on Saturday, September 21, 2013. | Michael Gard/For Sun-Times Media

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Updated: October 25, 2013 6:24AM



ST. JOHN — These are some random scores from the Lake Central’s girls golf sectional, held at Palmira Golf Club on Friday: 172, 155, 140, 167, 156, 143, 132, 144 and 149. Of the 40 girls competing in the event, 26 of them failed to break 100.

Pace of play: Roughly six hours. Private grousing by coaches and parents: Frequent.

It was a good experience for handful of players, but a brutal one for the majority of them. That’s just the way it went. You can see similar trends in all the sectionals.

I love golf unconditionally, but it has suffered for years from stupid rules syndrome and its own obsession with honesty and decorum. That culture drips down to the high school level.

These are problems that are barriers for the uninitiated.

They want to learn the game, but some may never come back after taking a 16 on a hole — a score that was recorded this past weekend at a girls sectional. It’s one reason, besides the expense, that virtually none of the urban schools in Northwest Indiana fields a golf team.

There is absolutely nothing in it for them besides a monster headache from a score that could border on infinity if some sort of limit isn’t set on what they can take.

There is a fairly simple, obvious solution for the problem.

It’s called circle 10. It’s what most coaches and schools do all year to keep the pace of play up and the girls from getting demoralized.

After the 10th stroke, a player gets to stop and write down 10 on the card. Then, they can move on to to the next hole or hold the flag for the other girls in the group.

It’s a simple, dignified way to handle a challenging problem. If you’ve ever had to watch someone take a 14 or a 15 on a hole, you know how difficult and painful it is to watch.

I was at golf meet earlier this year where the coaches told their players to intentionally hit the ball in the hazard because the drop was on the other side of the junk. It was going to be easier to get to the green in three after hitting into the creek than it would be to go around it. That’s counter intuitive and nothing I would want to have to teach girls in an ideal world, but I get it.

It was quicker and easier to whack one in the water than it would’ve been to try to get around the river for most of the players.

The Indiana High School Athletic Association doesn’t believe in circle 10 for the postseason tournament.

They want a “pure” score. I just wonder if anybody from the IHSAA is out there watching these girls — the ones that struggle courageously — play? If they could feel the pain of watching a girl drive a ball twice into in a hazard, walk back 100 yards or so to the tee to hit it again after frantically searching for the ball and then see the course get backed up, maybe it would be different?

(Full disclosure: My daughter plays for Andrean and she falls into the learning the game category.)

In theory, the tournament rule is well intentioned.

Girls play circle 10 all year and now it’s time to step up and use it for everything.

In reality, it’s an agonizing day for more than half the players that compete in girls golf.

I can say this with certainty: There was a 0 percent chance that any school other than Munster, Lake Central or Crown Point were going to get out of the Lake Central Sectional. Zero. None. The coaches knew that. The players knew that.

There is an easy way to mitigate the potential problem of corrupting a team score by allowing girls to take circle 10. Give the players, coaches and teams the option.

If they take the circle 10, that player’s score can’t be counted toward the team score.

They know their team and they know who can navigate the course without having to resort to circle 10.

They also know that it could help teams and players who have no chance of advancing to the regional. They are there to compete in a tournament environment and learn what it feels like.

Chris Kaufman of the IHSAA defended the current format by saying players and teams aren’t required to compete in the tournament. Is that really what you want? Dismiss a change out of hand that could be beneficial to about half the teams that play in the tournament?

This rule change wouldn’t corrupt the tournament. It won’t have any affect at all on the best players.

What it would do is make for a better experience for most of the players, speed up play and actually help grow the game — something girls golf needs.



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