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High Schools | FALL PREVIEW: GIRLS' GOLF

Minimum-Player Rule Having Maximum Effect

September 17, 2002|PETER YOON | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Bob Meyers couldn't have imagined this when he started the girls' golf program at Canyon Country Canyon High four years ago, but there he was during the first week at school, putting up signs across the campus, making announcements over the public-address system and advertising in the school bulletin.

Meyers desperately needed players. He had only four out for the team, and the Southern Section requires a minimum of five to compete.

"This rule is killing us," Meyers said. "I really didn't think it would be this hard to find players."

At a school of about 2,800 in the suburban Santa Clarita Valley, it shouldn't be. Luckily, two girls responded to the pleas and the Cowboys will have a team, but other schools aren't as fortunate.

Last year, the California Interscholastic Federation mandated a change in the minimum number of players on girls' teams from three to five because of a gender-equity complaint. The ruling led to four schools dropping teams, several others scrapping plans to start teams and countless others forcing unskilled players into the heat of varsity competition.

The effects of the ruling are trickling into this season. Riverside King, for example, will not field a girls' team even though its student body includes Nicole Smith, the defending section individual champion, and Summer Scholl, who tied for ninth at the CIF-WSCGA finals. Smith and Scholl will play on the boys' team in the spring, as they did last season.

"We don't have enough girls to fill a squad," King Athletic Director Tony Masi said. "We're trying. All we would need is three girls who can carry a bag. They just aren't there."

An informal survey of coaches revealed across-the-board uncertainty as to which team has the depth to win this season.

"Most teams have two or three good players," said Art McKarns of South Torrance, ranked No. 7 in The Times' preseason poll. "But after that, you don't know what you're going to get. If we were still playing three scores, it would be easier to identify the top teams. The depth of players just isn't there yet for the girls."

Ninth-ranked San Clemente, a school in golf-crazy southern Orange County, will get by this season with five players.

"We're lucky enough to have 16 girls in our program," Coach Mike Hurlbut said. "But we only have five ready for varsity."

Readiness is not an issue at Canyon, where Meyers will use a player who picked up a club for the first time in practice this week.

Meyers said she whiffs often.

"I love her to death because she never cries," Meyers said. "It can be embarrassing, but she's a trooper."

Meyers is willing to take players under his wing, as long as they can commit to the team, so he offered one more plea for players.

"If you can walk and chew gum," he said, "you can play golf on the Canyon girls' team."

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