Fairleigh Dickinson Athletics Director Brad Hurlbut stood on the steps of LSU’s University Club Wednesday afternoon and prepared to give a somber announcement that would make him public enemy No. 1 at the Baton Rouge NCAA Women’s Golf Regional. As the NCAA Committee representative on site, it was his job to deliver the news no one wanted to hear.
“This is one of the most gut-wrenching decisions and announcements that I’ve ever been a part of,” he began. “Even though the course is playable, it’s not playable at a championship level. Therefore, the top six teams that were seeded will advance, along with the top three individuals that were not on those six teams.”
After being thoroughly saturated by seven inches of rain over three days, tournament officials determined that the course was not up to snuff. The tournament was a wash-out and the result was decided without a single shot being hit.
At the club, players reacted with immediate displeasure; when video of the announcement made its way to social media, a wide range of voices from across the golf world echoed their outrage. Why couldn’t the course be modified or the event be delayed a day or two more?
Julie Manning, the National Committee Chairperson for women’s golf, explained in an appearance on Golf Today that play must be completed by the date stated in the bylaws (this year, Wednesday May 12), which have been in effect since 1993.
“It’s very difficult to ask these courses to give up their courses, to commit further than we’ve asked of them on the front end,” Manning said. “In the end, we did follow our procedure and our manual that was put together decades ago … We did feel like we needed to follow our policy.”
Another frustration from the masses surrounded the decision by the NCAA to use the term “playable” — but not playable at a “championship level” — when describing the condition of the course.
Because of the rain in Baton Rouge, standing water was present in many fairways. The tournament committee could have moved tees up ahead of the casual water, Manning explained, but shortening the course so much would have resulted in it playing as a par 65 or 66.
“Is that really a championship experience?” Manning said. “Are you compromising the integrity of the championship and the game and the competition when you start doing that? … Sure, we could play golf probably anywhere. But is that the right thing to do?”
Others suggested that the competition would not have been so hastily canceled if it were a men’s event instead.
“I have absolutely no doubt that the games committee, whether or not they were staffing that for a men’s event or a women’s event, would have gotten to the same decision,” Manning said. “I have no doubt that the same decision would be made.”