GHSA to discuss moving golf season from spring to fall

An aggressive campaign is underway to move the high school golf season from the spring, where it always has been, to the fall, where proponents of the change say it belongs. The idea will be discussed at the Georgia High School Association’s executive committee meeting Monday in Macon.

No proposal or vote will be taken on whether to move the golf season. That decision is solely in the hands of executive director Robin Hines, who is given that power through the GHSA’s constitution to set the competition schedule. But the group behind the move will lobby the trustees and Hines on Sunday.

The GHSA has surveyed its membership regarding a possible move, and more than 200 schools already have replied. The results will be announced at the executive committee meeting.

The group wishing to move the sport is being pushed by the Georgia High School Golf Coaches Association, which has the backing of the Georgia PGA, the Georgia State Golf Association, the National Golf Coaches Association and heavy hitters such as two-time NCAA champion University of Georgia golf coach Chris Haack.

Likewise, the opposition sent a letter signed by nearly 50 high school coaches that explained why the move would be detrimental to the sport.

Proponents offer several reasons why the move makes sense. High schools in Florida and Tennessee already have their golf season in the fall.

“I think it’s what’s best for the kids,” said GHSCA president Kurt Hitzeman, the golf coach at Carrollton. “The major golf organizations are on board with it. I know there’s opposition, but we need to try to look 20 years down the road and see what’s best for Georgia high schools.”

The current golf season starts in February when conditions are cold and often wet, with prime conditions available for the last month of the season. Playing conditions would be better in the fall when the temperatures are cooler, but usually not as cold.

Those in favor say more courses and clubs would make their venues available. It can be difficult to find courses for tournaments in the spring when they’re hosting fundraisers and Monday outings.

A fall season would make it easier to attract the officials from the GHSA and Georgia PGA who are needed to run the events. These groups are busy with their own events in the spring.

They also say a move to the fall would make it easier for college coaches to recruit players.

“It is our hope that the GHSA will strongly consider transitioning high school golf to a fall sport,” Georgia PGA executive director Scott Geary and GSGA executive director Matt Vanderpool wrote in a letter they co-signed.

Opponents of the proposal say it will hurt smaller and rural schools, who have golfers who compete on the school’s football team. Commerce, a contender each year in Class A, has five boys on the golf team – three play football and the No. 1 player is in the marching band.

And while there are fewer boys sports (football and cross country) in the fall, it would complicate the situation for girls, who already have cross country, softball, flag football and cheerleading on the agenda. Opponents say it would wipe out the girls golf team at schools like LaGrange, which has three starters on the softball team and nine members of the football cheerleading team.

The opposition also includes a large number of football coaches, who also serve as golf coaches. It would force schools to find new teachers to coach golf and deprive the current coaches of an opportunity to remain in their current roles.

But a move to the fall would benefit the elite high school golfers, who can be forced to make some tough decisions when they qualify for a USGA event. Carter Loflin, the No. 1 player at St. Pius last year, had to make a difficult call to skip the state golf championship because he qualified for the U.S. Amateur Four-Ball Championship.

Loflin, a member of the golf team at the University of Georgia, favors a move to the fall.

“It always seemed that golf was thrown in with a ton of other sports at the same time, that it’s not really as important,” Loflin said. “When I qualified for the USGA event, there was a decision lingering in my head of whether I wanted to play in that or the state championship. That’s never really a decision you want to make.”

Those opposed to the move even floated an idea of having the larger schools compete in the fall and the smaller classifications continuing to compete in the spring. There also is mention of a split season – like college teams – where there would be six tournaments in the fall and six or more tournaments in the spring.

The agenda for the fall meeting hardly is robust, but there are a couple of other interesting items.

- The board of trustees will hear a proposal to strengthen the requirements that define a bona fide move for a transfer.

- A proposal is being made to modify the bylaws to allow a GHSA coach to coach a competitive non-GSHA team that is not the same gender they coach at the high school. For example, this would allow the high school boys soccer coach to work with a non-GHSA girls soccer team.

- The tennis committee wants to change the wording to allow 18 playing dates with multiple matches rather than the current limit of 18 matches.

- The volleyball committee has a proposal to require at least two officially dressed officials at each match.