August 31, 2001
Junior golf for girls in Delaware received a big boost this month, thanks to the Delaware Secondary School Athletic Association (DSSAA).
At their regular meeting on Wednesday, August 22, the DSSAA board of directors approved a sweeping change in the rules governing high school golf competition.
All girl golfers will play from the forward tees from now on. The boys will continue to play from the middle tees.
The new rules apply to all high school matches, the conference tournaments, and the state championship.
Until the change was approved, all high school golf competitions played from the middle tees, a distinct disadvantage for the girls.
Alice Dye, who co-designs golf courses with her famous husband, Pete, recommends that the forward (women’s) tee yardages be set at no more than 80% of the middle (men’s) tee lengths. Based on her analysis, using this ratio usually creates situations where men and women can use the same club for their approach shots to the greens.
Last spring the Henlopen Conference sought approval for this change from the DSSAA board at their May meeting, as reported in this column at the time. The board postponed its decision for further review.
Bob DePew, Executive Director of the DSSAA, said the board decided to give the rest of the state’s athletic conferences an opportunity to discuss the issue, before making its decision.
“At the August meeting, it turned out that it wasn’t a particularly contentious issue,” DePew noted. “The board decision was unanimous, in fact.”
“The eleven Henlopen Conference schools voted unanimously for the proposal, and so did the schools in the Independent Conference,” DePew explained. “The DSSAA golf committee also recommended the change. The teams from the Blue Hen Conference voted 8-7 against it, but the board recognized that the overall consensus was in favor of the proposal.”
Viking golf coach Jerry Dorneman welcomed the change, especially considering that three of his varsity candidates for next season are girls: Christina Wagamon, Shannon Prettyman, and Reinie Vugrinic.
“Now we have a good chance for a winning season,” Dorneman said recently. “It’s a wonderful opportunity for the girls, and should encourage others to participate.”
“High school sports are a great way for kids to learn and compete, especially for lifetime sports like golf” Dorneman said. “This change can only help.”
Wagamon, who starts her senior year at Cape next week, said, “This is very exciting. I think it’ll be a great opportunity. Hopefully it’ll be fun, and there’ll be more girls involved. I’m just glad they made the change before I’m out of there.”
Vugrinic also enters her senior year at Cape this fall. She carries a 16 handicap from the middle tees at Shawnee Country Club, and played on Cape’s JV squad last spring. This year was her last chance to make the varsity, and Vugrinic was pleased to learn of the change. “I think it levels the playing field. I also think if it’s publicized, there will be more girls trying out statewide,” Vugrinic said.
The state team championships next spring should be unaffected by the change in tee boxes, except that some schools may now become more competitive. The new rule may also affect who is selected for the group of 24 individual golfers who compete for the individual title, from schools whose teams fail to qualify.
The DSSAA is probably reluctant to crown individual boys’ and girls’ champions in golf, even under the new arrangement, at least until there are 16 separate girls’ golf teams. That’s not likely to happen for a while yet, and an official title separated by sex in golf may trigger other issues for other sports which also don’t provide for an official separation of the sexes.
Nonetheless, the DSSAA golf coaches’ committee could at least create some sort of unofficial recognition for the best-scoring boy and girl in the state high school golf championship. It would give all players an additional incentive, and help blunt any criticism that the new tee box rule is somehow unfair to boys.