To say Monday’s Class 1A girls golf sectional at Spencer T. Olin in Alton was a marathon is unfair to runners.
According to figures published in 2015, the median finishing time for a marathon is 4:20.
Most of the girls were on the course between six and six and a half hours Monday. Players were finishing up as darkness fell. Two young ladies were tied for the 10th and the final qualifying spot for this weekend’s state tournament.
It was too dark for a playoff. The young ladies, one from Highland, the other from Effingham, had to return to Alton Monday morning – possibly to play a single hole. No one could think that is a good idea.
Standing among the spectators crowding around the scoreboard, it was obvious no one was happy – not players, not coaches, not parents.
Unfortunately, Monday’s experience is not an anomaly. Postseason rounds frequently take five hours or more.
There are a number of reasons.
A primary reason is a wide disparity in skill level.
Monday’s top players finished in the 70s. On the other side of the spectrum, some teams didn’t have a single player score below 100. There were a number of players finish with scores of 120.
The tournaments are set up so that the best players have the latest tee times.
That works well for professional golf, but the Illinois High School Association may want to reconsider.
The top players could certainly finish the round in four hours or less. The current format insures that the course will be clogged. Seeing two or three groups backed up on a tee box is not unusual.
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The worst two things about playing golf are feeling you are being pushed by the group behind you, or standing around and waiting for the group ahead of you to clear.
Allowing the top seeds to play first would alleviate both issues.
The elite players would be free to play at their own pace. At the same time, the average players would feel less pressure to play faster. It appears to be a win-win.
A second factor are the courses themselves.
Postseason events tend to be held at more challenging venues. That just makes sense. The cream should be allowed to rise to the top. On the other hand, these are high school athletes, some of whom are too young to have a driver’s license.
Some of the pin placements Monday were what you’d expect to see on Sunday at Augusta or St. Andrews.
The 18th green was a prime example. The long narrow green was protected by moguls on the left, sand on the right and a creek in front. The pin was located in the far right corner on a sharp ridge.
Three putts seemed to be the norm. Four putts weren’t uncommon.
For the average player, there is a fine line between challenging and punishing. I had several conversations with coaches who talked about their players being in tears on the course. That’s going to happen occasionally in competition.
But the game should also be fun. Watching the body language of players leaving the 18th green Monday, too many of the players looked exasperated … not to mention tired. Six hours is a long time to be on the course.
LES WINKELER is the sports editor for The Southern Illinoisan. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or call 618-351-5088 / On Twitter @LesWinkeler.