The state’s governing body for high school athletics found itself caught up in a firestorm of controversy last week when Lunenburg junior Emily Nash shot a lower score than anyone in the Division 3 field of the Central Mass. tournament.
Nash’s three-over-pay 75 was good enough to best the boys, but she will not be moving on to the state tournament and she was not recognized as the district champion because of a rule that says a girl cannot win the boys’ individual golf tournaments.
In a four-paragraph statement, which congratulated Nash but did not mention her by name, the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association said “Girls playing on a fall boys team cannot be entered in the boys fall individual tournament. They can only play in the boys team tournament. If qualified, they can play in the spring Girls Sectional and State Championships.”
The rule is clear, and tournament officials apparently made Lunenburg’s coach aware of it prior to the tournament, but there seems to be something off with the fact that Nash could compete for her team — her low score counted for the team total, though Lunenburg failed to advance — but not earn any individual accolades. As the saying goes, in for a dime, in for a dollar. If she can tee it up with the boys — from the same tees, by the way — she should be able to beat them.
Some of the biggest names in the game agree.
When I interviewed Bay State golfing legend Pat Bradley for the Boston Herald, she told me “I think the MIAA, they need to go back and revisit this whole subject.” Two-time U.S. Open winner Curtis Strange tweeted “Emily Nash, Champion #EmilyWon.”
Local coaches also expressed their appreciation for Nash, who took the entire ordeal in stride.
“If she is going to be on what is considered a boys’ roster, I don’t see why her score can’t count,” said Nipmuc head coach Ryan Cody. “I am sure (the MIAA) will do their due diligence to see if a change needs to be made going forward.”
BVT head coach Matt Connors added, “she was tremendous” and said his co-captain, J.J. Newcombe, who earned a spot in the state tourney this week, summed it up perfectly.
“He said ‘coach, she was the best golfer I’ve seen all year,’” Connors said.
Nash’s peers, and the game’s best, recognized her as the best, even if the MIAA did not.
This column appears in the Nov. 3 edition of the Upton/Mendon Town Crier.