By Ken MacLeod
STILLWATER – How many holes does it take to complete a Class 6A boys state golf championship? That question was the subject of heated debate and last-minute changes to the format for Tuesday’s final rounds at Karsten Creek Golf Club in Stillwater.
Eventually, 36 holes were contested today to make the 6A final the regulation 54 holes, but not before mass confusion and the threat of legal action.
At issue was an arcane rule of competition by the Oklahoma Secondary School Activities Association that requires that if any holes were not completed during the first round, all of the holes contested that day would be thrown out, which in this case would have reduced the tournament to the 18 holes scheduled Tuesday.
Why that rule was ever adopted, not even OSSAA Executive Director Ed Sheakley could fathom, and he vowed today to get it changed as soon as possible. What it meant in this case was a phone call to Karsten Creek Director of Golf Rob Land at 8 a.m. Tuesday instructing him to please play two rounds Tuesday even though the teams and volunteers showed up expecting it to be an 18-hole finale after that decision was announced Monday night.
Karsten Creek, which begins hosting practice rounds for the May 16-18 NCAA Stillwater Regional on Thursday, had told the coaches at a pre-tournament meeting Sunday that if inclement weather hit on Monday, it would only be able to host 18 holes on Tuesday. Storms then forced teams off the course in their second rounds late Monday, with some teams having completed up to 15 holes and others about nine holes.
At a meeting Monday night between coaches and Karsten Creek officials, it was determined that instead of having the teams return to their spots Tuesday to finish the second round and then play the final 18, the second round from Monday would be null and teams would play 18 holes Tuesday for a 36-hole tournament. This was essentially Karsten Creekâ€™s decision to shorten the tournament based on what it had told the coaches Sunday and neither Land nor the coaches in attendance were aware of the OSSAA rule that would have nullified the morning round Monday if it stuck to this plan.
Led by Broken Arrow coaches and parents who researched the rules, subsequent calls were made to Sheakley and the OSSAA, which did not have a representative on site.
â€œThe good news is itâ€™s going to be 54 holes like all of our other state tournaments,â€ Sheakley said. â€œAs for the rule, I had to read it several times to be sure. I was puzzled as to why you would disregard the 18 holes that everyone had played. It doesnâ€™t make sense but itâ€™s probably been in there for a long time.â€
Broken Arrow coach Lance Allen said he felt like the bad guy for pointing out the rule, but wanted all the players to have the full 54 holes to do their best. He was one of many coaches, including Corey Burd of Owasso and Jeff Doherty of Edmond North, who said the biggest mistake was not completing the second round early Tuesday then playing the final 18 later Tuesday.
By the time the decision was made, that was no longer an option. Teams had teed off expecting to play 18 and word had to be sent to the coaches and players that it had been changed to 36. Many of the volunteers who were serving as spotters on various holes were gone by the time the second 18 began. The tournament was expected to conclude after 7 p.m.
Land said the decision to play 18 Tuesday for a 36-hole championship was not solely due to maintenance concerns with the impending regional, but that other factors were involved. Karsten Creek is in the first year of a second five-year agreement to host the Class 6A boys state championship.
â€œI think the biggest thing is at the end of the day the boys are going to get to determine their championship over 54 holes on a great course like Karsten Creek,â€ Land said.