Baton Rouge has been hammered by rain this week, with seven inches falling on the University Club golf course, one of the NCAA Women’s Golf Regional sites.
That meant that heading into today, it looked like the regional (and the teams advancing to the national championship round) would be decided over just 18 holes. Instead, the tournament committee canceled it outright, in a bizarre statement that included admitting the course was playable.
Here’s how they broke the news to the assembled players and staffs on-site:
Here’s the scene in Baton Rouge when officials canceled NCAA Regionals without one single shot being played over the course of three days. pic.twitter.com/JtchPN9zlt
— Golfweek (@golfweek) May 12, 2021
A transcript via Golfweek’s Beth Ann Nichols, who has been all over the story:
“Look, this is one of the most gut-wrenching decisions and announcements that I’ve ever been a part of,” said NCAA Committee representative Brad Hurlbut, the Director of Athletics at Fairleigh Dickinson, outside the clubhouse at the NCAA Baton Rouge Regional around 11:30 a.m. CDT.
“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.”
No one would dispute the idea that a flooded venue would mean it’s impossible to play. The issue, though, is that there have been windows where a lot of golf could have been played, according to players and coaches.
Yesterday afternoon Miami coach Patti Rizzo walked the course in Baton Rouge: “We should be out there playing right now.” pic.twitter.com/5tQwG7pRh2
— Beth Ann Nichols (@GolfweekNichols) May 12, 2021
Obviously not all parts of a golf course drain at the same speed or take on the same amount of water. But according to Nichols, it’s more than just a luck of the weather situation.
For days now, several coaches have maintained that there were windows of time in which golf could have been played. Miami coach Patti Rizzo walked all 18 holes on Tuesday afternoon and said that maybe four or five bunkers were in bad shape. She did not see any of the maintenance crew working on the golf course during that time. She suggested to the committee that the par-4 seventh hole be shortened to a par 3 to adjust for the standing water in the fairway.
In fact, in Sunday’s coaches meeting the committee reminded coaches that if they couldn’t get in 18 holes of golf that the teams would advance off of seeding. Chadwell wonders now why they didn’t start playing on Sunday when weather wasn’t an issue.
“This place has zero business hosting another regional,” said Chadwell, who said zero effort was made to adjust as it became clear that the tournament couldn’t be played in a normal fashion.
“You find a way to get it done.”
Those are very valid points! With weather impending and a national championship slot on the line, it certainly feels like more could have been done. Nichols piece cites coaches who noted that they never saw pumps on the course, and that maintenance crews were scarce. Canceling the round and just sending teams and players through based on seeding feels incomprehensible, and combined with the lack of preparation calls to mind the obvious disparities between the men’s tournament bubble and the women’s tournament bubble this March.
That announcement on the steps, with the impossible to parse “not playable at a championship level” line, must be infuriating for teams and players who may have seen their college careers end in that moment. (On the heels of last spring’s lost season, too.)
The sight of them slowly turning and walking back up the steps rather than take any questions or face the crowd is impossibly on brand for the NCAA.