If the Wisconsin Interscholastic Athletic Association had its golf seasons set up like the state to its south, the coronavirus pandemic would not have affected the WIAA boys season.
High school boys and girls play in the fall in Illinois, whereas all prep golfers in Minnesota had their seasons wiped out because both boys and girls play in the spring.
Girls golf in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula is played in the fall. Boys golfers throughout the state and girls golfers in the Upper Peninsula play in the spring.
The Iowa High School Athletic Association splits its golf seasons based on enrollment. Class 4A boys and girls – what would be Division 1 schools in Wisconsin – play in the fall, while boys and girls in Class 1A, 2A and 3A had their spring seasons canceled.
The Indiana High School Athletic Association organizes its golf seasons the same way the WIAA does – girls in the fall, boys in the spring.
The WIAA sponsored golf as a fall sport for boys from 1974 to 1985 in addition to a spring season, but the fall option was dropped due to the low number of participating schools.
Dennis Birr, the outgoing President of the WIAA Board of Control, noted having boys golf in the fall might cause headaches for multi-sport athletes.
“Some kids pick sports based on what time of year they’re played, so while you might gain some kids, you might also lose some,” Birr said. “In my opinion, the problems might outweigh the benefits.”
WIAA Assistant Director Tom Shafranski is responsible for the administration of golf, hockey, swimming and diving and tennis, and also oversees the WIAA Scholar-Athlete program. He was honored as the 2009 Golf Coaches Association of Wisconsin Friend of Golf recipient, and said coaches in Wisconsin could generate interest in bringing back the fall season.
“Coaches could take the recommendation to the Golf Coaches Association, and then we’d vet that through our WIAA committee process. Then the WIAA Board of Control could look at it,” Shafranski said. “In the 20 years I’ve been handling golf, we have not had anyone come forward to indicate there is further interest in fall golf.”
The WIAA Board of Control voted to cancel all 2020 spring sports competitions and state tournaments series on April 21.
Dr. Kevin Walter, who works for the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin and has been a member of the WIAA Sports Medicine Advisory Committee since 2006, advised the Board of Control during the meeting. He provided the Board with information about where the state is in controlling the outbreak and made recommendations for spring and fall sports.
Walter said it is easier to socially distance and control the spread of COVID-19 in golf compared to other spring sports, but the WIAA clarified high school golf teams could not begin practice despite courses opening up statewide April 24.
Shafranski posed the question of allowing boys golf to have a shortened season at the Board of Control meeting.
“The Board would have to look at public safety and schools being open before even considering that,” Shafranski said. “It’s probable that other sports would also have to be allowed to play. Even though there appears to be less risk playing golf, there are still issues schools would have in promoting that sport but not others.”