Golf: On course for change

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Players, coaches, parents and spectators have been complaining, grumbling, muttering and whining for years about the regional golf qualifying format.

In the past, many of the state's top teams and individuals were lumped in the same regions that were determined at the start of the season.

That resulted in several good golfers not being able to qualify for the state tournament, while others with higher scores did make it into the state tourney because of playing in a region with fewer talented golfers.

However, a significant change has been made to the Class 5A and 4A regional qualifying setup that will also apply to the girls spring season.

Now, with the new CHSAA waterfall regional seeding system, league finishes will be submitted to the CHSAA on Sept. 9, and schools will be placed in one of four regions based on how they finished in their leagues.

The idea behind the modification is that a couple conferences usually produce better golfers and often have to compete in a region for a certain number of spots in the state tournament, where another region might have schools that that don't have as many good golfers.

Last season, for example, after the predetermined number of teams qualifying in each region was set, the qualifying cutoff score in the Metro-East regional played at Common Ground Golf Club was 76.

There were 38 golfers in the state tournament who played in last year's state tournament with qualifying scores higher than 76, and there were six golfers in the Metro-East that fired a 76 and had a playoff, with only one advancing into the two-day state tournament.

With this season's seeding for the four regional tournaments, the No. 1, No. 5 and No. 9 teams in the Continental League will play in the Central Region along with the top Jefferson County League team.

The Colorado Springs Metro and Front Range League champions will be in the Northern Region with the Continental's No. 2, 6 and 10 schools. The Denver Prep and Southwestern League champions will be seeded in the Western Region with the Continental League's third-, seventh- and 11th-place teams.

The Continental League No. 4, No. 8 and No. 12 teams will tee it up in the Southern Region with the No. 1 teams from the Centennial and East Metro Leagues.

Each Class 5A region will have two automatic teams qualify and roughly 15 individuals not on the top two teams.

“The new format can make a huge difference,” said Douglas County coach Jeff Riley. “Historically the southern and eastern metro regions were very strong and the northern much stronger than metro west. In 2006, Douglas County won the league by 50 shots but finished fourth at regionals behind Air Academy, that had a career day, and Chaparral and ThunderRidge.

“ThunderRidge and Chaparral finished 1-2 in the state tournament after Douglas County finished ahead of them throughout the regular season. Golf in the state of Colorado is basically a one-day season, the regionals. If you have a great season and have a bad day at regionals, you are out. The realignment hopefully will cut down the numbers of one-day wonders qualifying for the state tournament.”

Mountain Vista coach Tim Taylor is another coach who lauds the CSHAA for taking a step in the right direction.

“This is a step towards a better idea,” he said. “We always thought league should really mean something. Standings in the league were irrelevant. Now all of a sudden they mean something. The way you play in league will give you a chance to play well in the regional and get into the state tournament.

“A lot of coaches for years have been saying that if you had a league like our league that was pretty deep and had kids go to a regional tournament that was a one-day shootout, which we never thought was right, you could have kids that shot 76, 77, 78 and not make it into the state tournament.”

Littleton's Joe Schroer was one of those golfers. He carded a 76 at the Metro-East regional and wasn't the one golfer to survive a six-player playoff. He was eliminated from the state tournament.

“It was kind of hard to look at the regional scores when they came out the next day, especially in the Jeffco League,” said Schroer. “I think it was 82 or 83 that was the cut. Hopefully it will be better this year.”

Arapahoe coach Harry Buckner summed up the qualifying change in a few words.

“Good golfers will get to state now,” he said.

Highlands Ranch coach James Barker, however, doesn't like the change.

“To me a region is a geographic area, and you ought to know where your regional championship is going to be well ahead of time so you can get some practice rounds on the course,” said Barker. “Also, the season has to end on Sept. 9 to do this seeding for the regionals, so that means we're only going to be playing a monthlong season.

“I don't like it at all. My argument against people who complain about shooting a good score and not getting into the state championship is they need to get better. I do think we shouldn't have players who shoot 90 in the state championship, but I don't think we've ever found a good formula. Maybe a two-day regional would be better.”

Regis Jesuit and Cherry Creek will again be among the state's top teams, and Douglas County returns the defending Class 5A individual champion in Kyler Dunkle.

Valor Christian finished second in the 2012 Class 4A state tournament, losing a playoff to Pueblo South on the second hole. Four players on that team, Josh Seiple, Coby Welch, Jake Staiano and Ross Macdonald, were underclassmen.

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