On one side, severe trepidation in August gave way to relief and satisfaction. On another side is a contingent wishing for now-defunct days of region and super region tournaments.
On both sides, there is a wait-and-see attitude as the new alignments and formats are showcased at this weekend’s high school boys and girls state golf tournaments.
With new individual scoring standards and a more rigorous qualifying standard — a baseline number was set based on previous year’s scores of matches and invitationals, and teams had to beat that standard five times this season — the high school golf community saw changes as necessary when it came to competitiveness (and beating darkness) and money.
With the new qualifying standards and the tournaments reduced to Div. I (bigger enrollment schools) and Div. II (smaller enrollment schools), between 10 and 14 schools qualified for three of the four tournaments. The glitch came in the Div. I girls qualifying standards, which were obliterated as a whopping 28 schools qualified.
Arizona Interscholastic Association’s golf tournament director, Dean Visser, said this week that a re-evaluation and tweaking of next year’s Div. I girls standards will likely be explored following after the tournament.
“Something had to be done, changes needed to be made,” Notre Dame coach Shelley Dinges said. “After the weekend I think we’ll have a better idea if this was the way to go or maybe we need to adjust.”
Those in favor of these new changes cited the standards being more difficult to allow the state’s better teams to filter through, and the increased importance on regular season competition.
In previous years, nine-hole matches and an occasional invitational were seen as only preparation for regionals and super regionals that determined which schools would play in their respective state tournaments.
Now, a few teams such as Red Mountain boys (Div. I), Williams Field boys (Div. II), Corona del Sol girls and Xavier girls (both Div. I and Notre Dame (Div. II), were initially worried no one would meet the standards.
Instead, they qualified early in the season and were able to use more kids in matches later in the season.
“I think they’re absolutely on the right track,” Red Mountain coach Rich Hamilton said. “I believe the season needs to mean something. You can’t just play and then have a regional tournament and super regional to get into the state. I don’t agree with that. I don’t think it was easy (qualifying numbers) by any stretch, but I think it was the right number.”
Not everyone is fully on board. Williams Field coach Rick Miles is one of a few coaches who liked the regionals and super regionals as state tournament qualifiers.
The biggest concern is with teams desperately trying to obtain five qualifying rounds forces most schools to play its top four and five golfers in nearly every match, which has slashed the opportunity and match/tournament experience for other kids on the team.
“Hopefully some tweaks will be made and we’ll get the chance to offer feedback,” said Miles, who noted he’s more sympathetic to the AIA and its decision-making process after years as Seton Catholic’s athletic director.
“It’s tough. I get aspects of both sides to this. They’re trying to do the right things. I don’t know there’s a perfect system, but I don’t know that this is the best solution.”
Both Rich Hamilton and Hamilton girls coach Kevin Krahenbuhl are fans of the new format.
“I was happy they made the matches more meaningful,” Krahenbuhl said. “It’s hard to practice and coach that stuff when a season of matches are a season-long warmup.”
Dinges is worried the increased pressure and more rigorous qualifying standards will drive relatively-new girls golfers away from the sport out of intimidation and frustration. Pat Reed (Corona del Sol) wants to see a 50 percent cutdown of schools after Day 1 of the state tournament. Miles wants regionals and super regionals to come back.
But they all agree on three things: Change is good, their input would help iron out a few remaining wrinkles and that there’s zero chance of making everyone happy.
“Let’s play this as trial-and-error, and perhaps a couple changes will make it a reflection of the top talent in the state without compromising too many kids’ opportunities,” Krahenbuhl said.
Boys Golf State Tournament
When: Friday and Saturday
Where: Randolph Park Golf Complex, Tucson
Tee Times: Div. I at 6:45 a.m.; Div. II at 11 a.m.
Div. I: 14 schools (Anthem Boulder Creek, Brophy, Chaparral, Desert Vista, Hamilton, Horizon, Ironwood Ridge, Mountain Pointe, Mountain View, Phoenix North Canyon, Perry, Pinnacle, Red Mountain, Tucson Salpointe).
Div. II: 14 schools (Arcadia, Cactus Shadows, Tucson Canyon del Oro, Tucson Catalina Foothills, Peoria Liberty, Notre Dame, Queen Creek, Tucson Sabino, Saguaro, Seton Catholic, Peoria Sunrise Mountain, Phoenix Thunderbird, Verrado, Williams Field).
Girls Golf State Tournament
When: Friday and Saturday
Where: Dell Urich Golf Course, Tucson (Div. I); Silver Bell Golf Course, Tucson (Div. II)
Tee Times: Div. I at 7 a.m.; Div. II at 10 a.m. Friday and 6:45 a.m. Saturday
Div. I: 28 schools (Phoenix Goldwater, Basha, Peoria Centennial, Chaparral, Yuma Cibola, Corona del Sol, Desert Mountain, Desert Ridge, Desert Vista, Dobson, Gilbert, Hamilton, Highland, Horizon, Lake Havasu, Marcos de Niza, Mesquite, Mountain Pointe, Glendale Mountain Ridge, Mountain View (Mesa), Mountain View (Marana), Phoenix North Canyon, Pinnacle, Red Mountain, Tucson Salpointe, Phoenix Sandra Day O’Connor, Tucson, Xavier).
Div. II: 10 schools (Cactus Shadows, Tucson Canyon del Oro, Tucson Catalina Foothills, Vail Cienega, Notre Dame, Queen Creek, Tucson Sabino, Saguaro, Scottsdale Christian, Tucson St. Gregory).