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Prep golf: Girls like tees where they are

WHEELING, W.Va. - The three girls participating in this week's high school golf State Tournament aren't interested in playing from the same tees as their male counterparts.

The subject was broached this week at Oglebay Resort's par 71 Robert Trent Jones Course, which played at 6,686 yards for the boys and 5,669 yards - or 85 percent - for the girls.

In the mid-1990s, the PGA of America - made up of male and female golf professionals with chapter, section and national events in which the women compete - adopted the 85-percent rule to, in essence, even the playing field.

"They came up with an average distance and the women were at 85 percent," State Tournament Director Scott Davidson said. "The goal, like on a par 4, was that if the average man hit an 8-iron into the green, the average woman should also be hitting an 8-iron into the green.

"The girl actually should be ahead of the boy off the tee, but hit the same shot into the green with the same club."

Some of the questions involve weather conditions and how they affect the longer tees, as well as fairway hazards, including bunkers.

It didn't make much difference on Tuesday, with Ritchie County's Sydney Snodgrass shooting a 9-over 80, Westside's Katelyn Sanders shooting a 22-over 93 and Parkersburg South's Adeena Shears firing a 16-over 87. The only girls in the field combined for 47 over par.

The question becomes, what would those numbers be if they played the same distance?

Wheeling Park Coach Don Headley wanted clarification on the 85 percent, how it was carried out and its effect on high school players.

"Are we comparing it to the small percentage of great golfers?" he asked. "Is it because they're girls or is it because they don't hit it as far? If you take an average female golfer and put her on the up tee and the average male on the back tee, the average female has a huge advantage.

"If you use the rule with our state, it's made for (the girls) to compete with the No. 1 kids."

Shears, who shot a 72 in the Ohio Valley Athletic Conference Championships at the Robert Trent Jones Course last month, reached the green in two on the par 4 No. 1, which played at 411 yards from her tee. Washington's Patrick Burgess, Princeton's Jared Porter and Huntington's Fisher Cross, who were in the same group, fell short of the green. Shears wound up three-putting for bogey.

She said that's about par for the course in terms of the advantage of being closer off the tee.

"I feel like, today, I could've shot the same thing wherever they put me," Shears said. "Sometimes it benefits me, but I felt like we had to get around the same hazards as the guys did. Most of the time, when I drive a ball and hit it 30 yards further than the guys, they hit a 5-iron and I'll be hitting a 7-wood even from 30 yards closer. They'll reach the green and then I'll be short."

The 85 percent covers the entirety of the course and not individual holes. Therefore, some holes provide a distinct advantage for the closer tee, while others don't.

The No. 17 hole at Jones has the white tees (girls) at 77 yards closer, but that's not the largest margin of any hole. The No. 8 hole white tees are 86 yards closer than the boys.

For Snodgrass - who will play her college golf at the University of Alabama at Birmingham - the 85 percent rule is just about right.

"It's pretty close," she said. "That's usually how it works out. It normally equals out. There might be one or two holes here or there where I have a lesser club, but, for the most part, it does equal out."

Change isn't likely anytime soon, although the coaches committee brought up the subject during the State Tournament.

"The way we are in the state, they have to compete against each other," said Davidson, whose daughter Lauryn is a junior golfer at Parkersburg High School. "Is it more fair to make them play the same tees? Is it less fair what's considered an advantage?

"There could be one hole where the girl would take a bunker out of play and be 60 yards ahead on one hole. Well, the next hole and they're right next to each other and the girl has to hit two more clubs than the guy does. So, it kind of evens out. I think the number's right. I don't think changing it is the right thing to do."

Davidson has three allies in Snodgrass, Sanders and Shears. Snodgrass was especially adamant in her feelings, especially after seeing Westside's Drew Bragg hit off the No. 1 tee.

"That'd be ridiculous," Snodgrass said. "The kid I was playing with today (Drew Bragg of Westside), his first drive went like 340. That wouldn't be fair for me to have to play from the same tees."

Sanders said the Jones Course exacerbates the disadvantage that the girls have.

"You might get a 10-yard advantage on the tee box," Sanders said. "The girls shouldn't have to play the same distance as the guys. Guys are a lot stronger than girls. It's not that girls can't hit as straight as the guys, it's the length of the individual shots."

Contact Assistant Sports Editor Rich Stevens at richstevens@dailymail.com or 304-348-4837.


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