With a controversial decision on reducing the KHSAA State Golf Tournament field this week, opponents of the plan spoke Wednesday before the Kentucky General Assembly's Interim Joint Committee on Education.
"The commissioner's (KHSAA's Julian Tackett) been quoted several times and here again today about how much data and research was conducted and how many people were asked their opinions -- I've talked to hundreds of people, golfers throughout the entire state, I cannot find one person who can rationalize this decision," said Eric Straub, a Paducah attorney and former high school and college golfer, who spoke on behalf of the opponents following Tackett's scheduled presentation to the committee.
Straub told the Sun on Thursday in an email that the board opted to cap the field at 144 with each region's winning five-person team and the best seven at-large players not on winning teams also advancing. This would advance 12 players per region and eliminate runner-up teams.
In February, the KHSAA Board of Control announced a number of proposed changes in boys and girls golf, the most contentious of which was reducing the number of players eligible to compete in the state tournament. The proposal, ostensibly made to improve pace of play and help the tournaments finish within their allotted schedules, drew swift rebukes from noted Kentucky golfers Justin Thomas and Josh Teater on social media and became a topic of discussion on a Golf Channel morning show.
Tackett said there have been attempts to speed up play around the state, but because of differences in courses, differences in player abilities and the varying rates of enforcement, those efforts have been difficult. Over the years, the state boys and girls golf tournaments have overrun their planned schedules a number of times causing logistical problems for the KHSAA and the competing schools.
"It is broken with 156 people. Bottom line with 156 people in late October, our board concluded it was broken," Tackett said.
The boys tournament had been set at 156 over the past several years, while girls was set at 154.
Straub, who spoke along with Madison Central's Tennye Ohr, the Kentucky Golf Coaches Association's Kevin Mims and the Bluegrass Golf Foundation's Chris Redle, argued the KHSAA should keep the status quo on the number of players and find other ways to speed the pace of play for the state championship.
"You have to draw the line somewhere," Tackett said after the meeting.
"Unfortunately we can't just turn the lights on at the golf course and we have a capacity issue. That's been the challenge. ... It became essential that something had to be done."