Local coaches argue against new IHSA cut line rule

Local coaches argue against new IHSA cut line rule

Sullivan coach Ben Richter composes an easy argument against the IHSA's new golf state tournament cut line, which debuts today at the five state tournaments across central Illinois.

"Last year, my number one, Caden Ellis, shot an 82 on the first day (of state)," said Richter, whose Redskins are part of the 1A boys' field. "He would've gotten cut. The second day, he comes out with a 75 and finishes 12th in the state.

"But if there was a cut, he doesn't even get to play the second day."

Local individuals and teams must contend with this new rule, confirmed by the IHSA in June.

After today's first round at the three boys' and two girls' state showcases, a portion of each field will be dropped based on score.

The leading eight teams and top 24 individuals beyond advancing groups will hit the links for Saturday's second round. This is a stark contrast to the no-cut format previously used.

IHSA golf's advisory committee, when recommending a state cut line earlier this year, said the change would improve pace of play and permit easier flexibility in rounds if weather becomes an issue.

But local coaches involved in this weekend's action aren't buying it.

"I'm really not in favor of the cutting," said Bement coach Kraig Rogers, whose son Zach will represent the Bulldogs individually in the Class 1A boys' meet. "It's kind of hard to make state. You get there and you get cut, that's not very positive, in my opinion."

"It's a punitive decision that serves no purpose," added Gibson City-Melvin-Sibley coach Ann Spangler, whose daughter Shannon tees off in the 1A girls' tournament. "The IHSA has stated that this new ruling will improve the quality of play for everyone. Who are they talking about? The kids who battle their way to the tournament, only to be sent home after one day?"

In each state tournament, up to 72 athletes are involved through team advancement — though some programs won't field the maximum six golfers. Another 40 youngsters qualify individually through sectional success.

Instead of up to 112 golfers walking the fairways for a pair of rounds, a maximum of 72 now will be involved with Saturday's proceedings.

"You're going to get done a little bit earlier, but the pace of play isn't going to change when you're still playing kids in foursomes," Richter said. "The kids made it to state, and they should be able to play both days ... because the game of golf from one day to another can be completely different."

Monticello coach Andrew Turner, who will accompany the Sages' Molly Stringer to the 1A girls' event, actually favors a cut line — just not at state.

"They're just making it at the wrong place," Turner said. "I think they ought to make it at the regional and sectional level and keep state a two-day event."

Turner feels the expansiveness of advancement through regionals and sectionals allows some athletes to reach levels they're not yet ready for.

One of Turner's suggestions was moving from the three-team, 10-individual regional/sectional advancement format to a two-team, seven-individual setup.

"When you can get those better golfers at state, let them have two days," Turner said. "Those are the kids going out in the summer, busting their butts."

Perhaps an outpouring of pushback to the state cut line will cause IHSA officials to reconsider in the future. But for now, this change is an aspect all competitors must be aware of.

"Championship golf tournaments are built to be played over the course of two or four days, to test the mettle of the players," Spangler said. "Our kids should be allowed to test theirs."