Another round for state golf: NEKY coaches weigh in on KHSAA format change | Sports

Missy Kennedy spent enough time at the state girls’ golf tournament that she felt strongly that changes to her format were needed.

The KHSAA Board of Control has made major commitments.

The board last week approved an additional round for boys’ and girls’ state golf tournaments beginning next fall. Called the “state first round,” it features three venues, each of which will host qualifiers from four KHSAA regions.

The top two teams and the top 10 individuals not on those teams from each regional tournament will advance to the state’s first round. From there, the top three teams from each state first-round venue and the top 15 individuals not on a qualifying team will advance to what is now called the final-round tournament. ‘State.

“After having had the privilege of experiencing the state golf tournament for three years, it’s a definite conclusion that 150+ players is way too many,” said Kennedy, the coach of the Boyd County girls. “The game is slow and the slightest bit of (bad) weather disrupts everything, with limited days to complete the tournament. There are a lot of golfers on the course at the same time trying to complete 18 holes in October.

KHSAA presented the changes in a release as a response to exactly that – an opportunity to increase the number of players and schools that can participate in a state-level tournament, while simultaneously streamlining the round. state end. Previously, the team champions and seven individual qualifiers from each of KHSAA’s 12 golf regions qualified directly for the state tournament.

Under the new format, 240 male and 240 female golfers will compete in the first round of state. That field will be reduced to 90 participants in the state final round, which retains the two-day format the state tournament had before the change.

Under the old approach, 144 boys and 144 girls qualified directly for the state from the region’s tournament.

In an email interview, Kennedy offered to have four first-round venues instead of three, which would increase opportunities for participation while reducing the scope of the state’s final round from what she described as previously unwieldy.

“They’re planning 90 girls (going to the state finals). That’s not enough for me,” Kennedy said. “(Four first-round venues) would get more girls to the state championship, but not the number of over 150 they’ve had in the past.”

Lewis County girls coach Mike Kennedy (no relation to Missy Kennedy), Rose Hill Christian boys coach Quinn Cole, Raceland girls coach Kim Sexton and Johnson boys and girls coach Central Adam Crum all expressed excitement about the opportunity for greater state-level participation.

“As a small school coach with a youthful program, the expansion of teams and individual berths brings more small schools into the mix, given that golf is not a graded sport,” Cole said. “More teams and more individuals in the state’s first round could create Cinderella stories all over the state.

“More playoff players mean more playoff experience to come and better tournament golfers as a result. This is a great move on the part of KHSAA, not only for high school golf, but for Kentucky junior golf as a whole.

Sexton sees another motivation for change. As evidence, she cited a line from the KHSAA statement: “With an increased number of participants progressing, regions with traditionally strong teams and individuals are not being eliminated in favor of participants from other regions.”

Sexton interpreted this as a thinly veiled beard thrown at rural and small town programs.

“For a long time, other areas of the state have been concerned about weaker teams entering the state tournament when other strong teams have already been eliminated,” Sexton said. “I believe that happens sometimes in all sports and in all areas of the state. … It’s definitely an effort to keep weaker teams out of the big stage, disguised as an effort to increase attendance.

Ashland boys coach Brad Greene added: “It is my understanding that schools in Louisville were unhappy with the participants allowed to go to the state due to the number of openings allowed per region. To me, it’s no different that two of the best basketball teams in the state are in the same area. Someone goes and someone stays home.

Of the 146 boys’ and girls’ team state golf titles the KHSAA has awarded since the men’s game began in 1935, only five have been won by schools aligned with the three easternmost regions of the KHSAA. The most recent of these was nearly three decades ago, when the Boys and Girls of Somerset in 1994 each won their state tournament.

Meanwhile, Golden Triangle schools in Louisville, Lexington and suburban Cincinnati, as well as counties bordering them, have won 101 of those 146 state titles.

Frequently, teams from east Lexington struggle to last more than two days at Bowling Green Country Club against urban and suburban competition. But that doesn’t mean schools in that region should be denied the opportunity, local coaches said.

“At the end of the day, not all the best teams make it to State in any sport,” Missy Kennedy said. “It’s a difficult situation. At the state championship, you want a good representation of golfers from across the state.

Eastern Kentucky produces its share of strong players, Sexton said, but its schools struggle to field top teams, in part because of the expense often incurred to develop individual golf skills.

“We just don’t have the economy to produce the best golf teams in this end of the state,” Sexton said. “We don’t have the elite courses to train on, and while we have high quality coaches available – the Kennedys (Missy and her husband Steve) – we don’t have as much private instruction available. “

The result is that some areas, especially in the more populous and/or more affluent parts of the state, may have multiple state-capable teams competing for a single spot, whereas the champions of other regions may struggle to compete in other areas. of the common good.

One of them is the big Lexington. The nine schools located in Fayette County and most of the rest of central Kentucky are lined up in Region Nine, which will be grouped with the three Eastern Kentucky regions — 10-12 — for the first round of the State. Every golf program in Northeast Kentucky resides in Region 12, with the exception of Johnson Central and Paintsville, which are in Region 11.

“It will make semi-statehood more difficult for our region,” Missy Kennedy said. “Region 12 has a lot of small schools and struggles to fill teams, while Region Nine has programs that can fill two golf teams at one school.”

Crum agreed with this assessment.

“I guess as a coach I like the fact that we have the opportunity for more of our student-athletes to qualify for a semi-state tournament,” Crum said, “but the structuring of semi-state really hurts our students chances of making it to Bowling Green for the state tournament.

The responsibility of Kennedy, Crum and their colleagues, according to them, is simply to prepare their players to face whoever they want.

“At the end of the day, it’s the best of the best who play at the state championship level,” Kennedy said. “As coaches, we just have to keep preparing the players like we always do and give them every opportunity to play and train.

“I know I’m trying to see this as another great opportunity to be competitive among Commonwealth golfers.”

Crum agreed, “We’ll just have to train harder and play better now if we go to Bowling Green!”

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