A federal court decision 11 years ago still has the ire of many Michigan boys golf coaches and many golf course managers across the state – to the point some coaches hope for a grass roots effort to make a challenge in court.
After a near-10-year battle in courts, a U.S. District Court judge ruled the MHSAA must most girls volleyball to the fall, girls basketball to the winter, boys tennis to the fall, girls tennis to the spring, girls golf to the fall and boys golf to the spring. The ruling was upheld when the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the MHSAA’s appeal in 2007.
Coaches who want to see boys golf return to the fall don’t want to see girls golf switched back to the spring. A shared season in the fall – just as with track and field, cross country and lacrosse – is the end goal. The coaches say it’s best for playing and growing the sport and would reduce missed time in the classroom.
“We’ve had enough of this weather and we certainly don’t wish it on the girls in any way, shape or form,” said Saginaw Valley Lutheran boys golf coach Don Burdo said, referencing the winter-like weather that finally broke in May.
Burdo’s assistant coach, Bill Hobson, is trying to find a lawyer that would take on the case. Still, many agree it would be an arduous battle to take down the court-ruled changed.
“Anyone who cares about the future of the game in this state needs to be very concerned about the injustice of this ruling and what it’s doing to participation levels among young golfers,” Hobson said. “We’re asking these kids to fall in love with a game that requires them to practice in hallways and classrooms, and then head outdoors for real competition while wrapped in 5 layers of jackets, coats, parkas, ski hats, and gloves.”
MHSAA statistics show a decrease in golf participation. In 2008-09, there were 547 boys golf teams comprising 7,673 players and 343 girls teams with 3,609 players. In 2016-17, there were 496 boys teams with 6,170 players and 329 girls golf teams with 3,561 players.
Critics of the court ruling point to this year’s late snowfalls and cold temperatures which forced postponements throughout the boys golf season. Rescheduled contests have all been crammed into a small window of time shared by proms, class projects and final exams. The MHSAA regional tournaments begin Wednesday.