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GIRLS' GOLF

Timing May Not Be Right for Expansion

October 24, 2000|PETER YOON

The Southern Section golf committee will meet today and among the topics expected to be discussed is changing the way girls' matches are scored and, in turn, forcing teams to add players.

The section informed coaches at the beginning of this season that girls' teams will begin counting four out of five scores in 2001, an increase from the three out of four in play this year.

Southern Section commissioner Jim Staunton said the long-term plan is to incorporate the same five-out-of-six scoring used in boys' golf, but many county coaches fear that the two-year-old girls' game simply is not ready for extra players.

There are logistic concerns, such as additional course time and more missed classes. But the skill level and seriousness of today's girls' golfer have raised the most eyebrows.

"Across the board, I don't think [adding an extra scoring player] would be good for the sport," said Tim O'Hara, coach at Santa Margarita High and a member of the section's golf committee. "The number of girls who take it seriously is so much lower than the boys. You still have a lot of girls out there who are in it for the social thing rather than the sport. That can't be good for the game."

Skill-wise, the evidence speaks for itself. Certainly, the upper echelon of players has improved quite a bit, but in 41 nine-hole matches reported in The Times last week, 72 of 246 scores (29%) were more than 50, including 13 scores more than 60. There were two scores reported last week that were over 70--for a nine-hole match.

The same week a year ago produced 79 of 240 rounds (33%) over 50 and 12 of those over 60, showing little improvement among the second-tier players.

"I don't think the depth of play warrants the expansion," said Tracy Roberts, coach at Woodbridge High. "For most teams, there is a huge drop-off between the top three players and the rest."

When girls' golf was approved by the Southern Section in 1998, the original charter called for expansion in 2002. Staunton points to rapid growth and pressure from gender equity groups at the state level as reasons for moving ahead a year early.

"My observation is that it has really taken off," Staunton said. "At the same time, we need to give girls the same number of opportunities we give boys." Giving opportunities doesn't necessarily mean players will come. O'Hara estimates that 15-20% of the schools that have varsity teams do not have junior varsity teams. One team in the Serra League, 1999 co-champion Torrance Bishop Montgomery, has only three players total.

"In some cases, the change might actually hurt the sport," O'Hara said. "If there are enough schools like [Bishop Montgomery], then they would have to drop the program because they wouldn't have enough players. If you add two players to every team but force 40 schools to drop the sport, then that wouldn't be good for the game."

Roberts, who had only one freshman try out for the team this year, doesn't think the sport has grown fast enough to warrant expanding: "It's not like we're turning away a bunch of kids."

RECORD BAD LUCK

Laguna Hills has had some bad luck against Aliso Niguel. On Oct. 6, the Hawks shot a school-record 130, but lost by five strokes to the Wolverines. On Wednesday, the Hawks shot a new school record of 122 against Aliso Niguel, but lost by four.

LOOKING AHEAD

Titles are on the line in most leagues this week. Santa Margarita needs a victory against Bishop Montgomery Thursday to clinch the Serra. Los Alamitos has clinched a tie for the Sunset League title and needs a victory today against Esperanza to seize it outright. The battle in the Sea View League is for second place after Aliso Niguel clinched first last week. Woodbridge and Irvine play twice this week and if either sweeps, it finishes second. If they split, it could mean a three-way tie with Newport Harbor.

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If you have an item or idea for the girls' golf report, you can fax us at (714) 966-5663 or e-mail us at: peter.yoon@latimes.com

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