After debate, golf still a spring thing

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Despite survey results that showed a slight majority of Connecticut golf coaches, athletic directors and principals favor moving one or both of the boys’ and girls’ seasons to the fall, the sport will continue to be played in the spring. The decision was made by the CIAC Golf Committee at its Jan. 27 meeting.

Among 285 survey participants, 21 percent supported moving both genders to the fall, 32 percent preferred moving boys only, and 47 percent said neither should move. The Golf Committee conducted the survey in response to a request by the South West Conference to make boys’ golf a fall sport.

According to a statement on the CIAC Web site, “The committee reviewed and discussed the results in detail and determined there was no clear mandate from member schools to change seasons as requested.”

Naugy’s Tim Fleck and other local golfers will continue to tee off in the spring.
Naugy’s Tim Fleck and other local golfers will continue to tee off in the spring.

The committee added it consulted the Office of Civil Rights in Boston about equality concerns that might arise, if the CIAC were to change the season of boys’ golf only. Though Connecticut already staggers boys’ and girls’ swimming and diving and volleyball seasons, OCR recommended that a switch of the boys’ season should also apply to the girls’.

Woodland Athletic Director Brian Fell was among those who favored moving boys’ golf only.

“I think [the boys’ and girls’ seasons] should be split,” said Fell, a former golf coach at Rocky Hill High School. “I think that gives you better course availability.”

He said Hop Brook Golf Course in Naugatuck, the home course for both the Hawks and Greyhounds, has fewer leagues in the fall than in the spring, making it easier to find tee times for all players. Woodland’s junior varsity team sometimes plays at The Golf Club at Oxford Greens because Hop Brook is crowded, according to Fell.

Crowding of a different sort was among the most common reasons cited on the survey by supporters of fall golf. Most Connecticut high schools currently offer at least four boys’ sports in the spring: baseball, tennis, track and field, and golf. Eighty-one schools also sponsor lacrosse, and 41 offer volleyball. By contrast, no school offers more than three fall boys’ sports.

The Naugatuck Valley League does not sponsor boys’ lacrosse or volleyball, nor does it offer girls’ golf. Fell acknowledged he sees benefits to keeping golf in the spring and said most of his NVL colleagues opposed a change.

Naugatuck coach Craig Blanchard said in a perfect world, golf would be both a fall and spring sport, but forced to choose, he chooses spring.

“In the fall, you have colder days at the end of the season,” he said, “instead of warmer [days] in the spring.”

Blanchard pointed to the PGA Tour’s schedule as a model, noting the sport’s four major championships are played between April and August.

He said spring league play at Hop Brook has not interfered with his team, since NHS tees off before 3 p.m., when afternoon leagues begin.

Blanchard also rebutted two other fall golf arguments: Players are at their best in the fall, after playing all summer, and a move to autumn gives seniors an extra season to impress college coaches, before applications are due.

“[Players] might shoot lower scores in the fall, after the summer,” he conceded. “But colleges aren’t really looking at what you do in the NVL season anyway. They’re looking at summer tournaments. [They’ll say], ‘You’re all-NVL? That’s great. But did you qualify for the Connecticut Junior Amateur? Did you make it to the [match play] round of 32?’”

Surrounding states’ seasonal alignments vary. New York, like Connecticut, plays both boys’ and girls’ golf in the spring. Massachusetts staggers its boys’ and girls’ golf seasons, the former playing in the fall and the latter in the spring. Rhode Island does not offer girls’ golf, though girls can play on boys’ teams, and plays in the spring.