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Prep golf safe ... for now
by Dan Eckles
Jun 16, 2011 | 1042 views | 0 0 comments | 1 1 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune file photo - Spanish Springs senior-to-be Jordan Gilmore is one of the top prep golfers in the state, but he was facing the possibility of no sport for his final season.
Tribune file photo - Spanish Springs senior-to-be Jordan Gilmore is one of the top prep golfers in the state, but he was facing the possibility of no sport for his final season.
Nearly two months ago, Washoe County School District Superintendent Heath Morrison outlined proposed school district cuts that included nixing funding for high school golf programs.

That announcement sent shockwaves through northern Nevada’s high school golf community. Nevada’s girls high school golf season is played in the fall while its boys season is played in the spring.

It now appears Washoe County’s high school golfers, both girls and boys, have less to worry about.

“We got the OK right when school was getting out that golf would not be cut,” Spanish Springs High athletic director Art Anderson said.

Reed High AD Ron Coombs reiterated Anderson’s comments.

“I’d say it looks pretty good that we will have golf next school year,” Coombs said. “That’s the position we (Northern 4A administrators) took on all sports. We’re moving forward like all sports are coming back. If we get back in the fall and we’re told there will be change, we’ll deal with that then.”

While the local high school golf community is moving forward under the assertion it will have a season during the 2011-12 school year, there might be a caveat. School district leaders are strongly considering a “pay-for-play” system for golf.

“We (the Northern 4A athletic administrators) meet on Aug. 8 and I’m sure any type of add-on fee will be discussed there,” Coombs said. “I don’t know what that dollar fee will be, or even if it will pass, but I know it will be talked about.”

Nick Wirshing is the boys golf coach at Spanish Springs, perennially one of the North’s top programs. He’s heard many of the same things Coombs alluded to. He has kept up to date with all the issues that could affect his program.

“We had heard originally that golf would be cut; now we’ve heard that it is not getting cut,” Wirshing said. “Basically, what we’ve been told is that to offset the cost, players will pay to play next year. We’ve heard two figures: one was $75 per player and one was $50 per player.

“That’s not too much for the kids to pay to play,” he continued. “The golf courses around here are such amazing partners. It’s actually a really inexpensive sport to run in the first place. All of our parents are in full support of this as opposed to cutting golf.”

Anderson said prep golfers should prepare for a $50 extra fee once they clear tryouts and are named to a team.

Wirshing talked about conversations he and his fellow coaches had this spring in which most stated their surprise upon hearing golf was on the chopping block. The Cougars coach said there’s not much money to be saved by cutting golf. He added that high school golf would be hurt more by the perception that it is a “country club”-type sport and setting.

“The course time is donated. We take our own private transportation to (regular season) events. The only cost is a coach’s salary and that’s pretty much the least of any high school head coach,” Wirshing said. “I believe it’s the least expensive sport to run. There’s a ton of expense in other sports, even the power of heating and cooling a building. We’re outside all the time. There’s virtually zero expense in golf. All the golf coaches thought it was silly the sport was even on the chopping block because it costs pennies.”

The Northern 4A golf community did its homework. Coombs cited a poll given to coaches and parents in which they were asked if they’d favor a pay-for-play over cutting the sport. He said the results came back overwhelmingly in favor of a implementing a fee over cutting the sport.

“I think it came back almost all ‘yes,’” Coombs said. “Golf may not be a front-page sport, but it’s a valuable sport. We’ve got a lot of kids, that’s just what they do.”

Superintendent Morrison’s announcement in April that golf funding would be cut did more than just raise frustrations in the local high school golf community.

“When I first heard that, it made the hair on my arms stand up,” said Greg Enholm, president of the Sierra Nevada chapter of the Northern California PGA Association. “Golf is our livelihood. That’s how we grow the golf business, through junior golf and high school golf teams. Talk of cutting those programs is scary.”

Nancy Maul, the executive director of the NorCal PGA section, had similar sentiments.

“These issues are absolutely a concern for us,” she said. “Youth is the future of golf. On top of a desire to keep the industry healthy, we believe golf is a good game and a good environment to grow up in. Kids learn life skills. We also know golf is a part of business. How many deals are done on the golf course? Plus, it’s a great family sport.”
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