The debate is a spring ritual.
And when the first two or three weeks of the high school golf season were spent under heat lamps at the local driving range, it became spirited.
Is the climate in Section 1 finally right for a move?
“This spring, do you need a better reason to go to fall golf?” asked Metropolis Country Club head pro Craig Thomas, who volunteered to help the squad from Solomon Schechter this season and wound up as head coach. “It was cold. It was nasty. It was wet. Now both teams played under the same conditions, so it was fair, but is that really the best thing for the kids?”
It’s a question that prompted an email to Section 1 golf chairman John Bauerlein, who responded by gathering information from around the state and conducting an informal survey of coaches here on the home front.
There is support for a move to the fall, but it’s hardly overwhelming.
“It’s a topic we’ve kicked around,” Bauerlein said. “It’s something that came up again this year with the difficult weather everyone had to deal with. … After it was all said and done, most schools got in 12 matches, and our section won the state title.”
There is no formal proposal in place to move to a fall season.
If the idea ever moves beyond a familiar discussion, a majority of the coaches would have to endorse the plan in order to set the wheels in motion. The next step, according to Bauerlein, would be a vote by athletic directors. And if enough schools are on board, the Section 1 athletic council would then take a look at the merits of a change.
Finger-numbing cold is the primary issue.
“I think it’s a no-brainer,” Rye Neck coach Mark Canno said. “The weather is better in the fall. The courses are in better shape in the fall. … We might have colder weather for the sectional tournament than we do now, though.”
And when a match starts after school, there could be a shortage of daylight in late October.
“We have quite a few matches in the spring where we aren’t done until 7 o’clock,” Clarkstown North coach Paul Toscano said.
The solution there is to play a few matches the last week of August before the schools are open.
Bauerlein got out the calendar and calculated the number of days available for competition in the spring and the fall. The difference was negligible. A number of coaches do not like the season being interrupted by spring break, and noted that wouldn’t be an issue in the fall.
Every course in the region opened late this spring, and that kept most high school golf teams on plastic grass hitting range balls.
“The privileged kids are going to go away during the winter a couple of times and play, or they’ll be at their country club’s indoor facility,” Thomas said. “Most of the kids don’t have the opportunity to do that. If they’re lucky, they’re hitting whiffle balls in the gym. They’re not on grass.”
Winter rules are in play through most of April.
“The courses in the spring, they’re aerated, they’re bumpy,” said Scarsdale senior James Nicholas, who finished second in the Section 1 championship. “I would think scores are probably two strokes higher in the spring.”
Unless there are some availability issues, a fall season would start each year at the end of August when the courses are in much better shape.
The competitors, too.
“If you have a team of golfers, those kids are going to come into the fall at the top of their game because they have been playing all summer,” Toscano said. “If you have kids who do other things, it’s not going to make much of a difference.”
An eight-week season could be completed a week or two before Halloween.
The level of competition would also likely be higher.
“I’m definitely better the last week of August than I am in the spring,” said Ardsley junior Brent Ito, who won the Section 1 championship this past season. “I’d still be in a tournament mindset. Coming off the winter, it’s hard to get into a groove.”
“If that happened, I’d probably go play football,” Nicholas said. “I can play golf on my own. It probably wouldn’t hurt our team. The golfers are golfers at Scarsdale, but I know at schools like White Plains, Mamaroneck and New Rochelle, they’d lose some players because a lot of them play football.”
The net gains or losses to each roster is hard to judge in advance.
Most schools in the region offer football, soccer and cross country for boys in the fall. Baseball, lacrosse, track and tennis are currently contested in the spring along with golf.
There’s one additional issue that would have to be solved if a move to the fall did come to pass. Right now, the NYSPHSAA tournament is held each June in Cornell.
“We have a rule in Section 1 that prohibits athletes from playing more than one sport in a season,” Bauerlein said. “So if you happen to qualify for the state tournament in the fall, and you are playing baseball in the spring, you would not be able to go. We’d have to go with alternates.”
Fall golf is the norm in some parts of New York, and Section 9 even has some leagues that play in the fall and others that play in the spring.
“I don’t know,” Toscano said. “It doesn’t matter to me, and most of my golfers only play golf so it wouldn’t affect us much either way. I like playing in the spring, but I can see the advantages of playing in the fall with the courses in better shape.”
The conversation is a long way from being over.