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Would ‘.500 rule’ work for women’s game?

Get Lance Ringler’s take on the adoption of the .500 rule in the women’s game.

As the depth of women’s college golf improves, it’s possible that changes could be on the horizon – at least as a topic of discussion. While the men added a match-play component to the national championship in 2009 and implemented the “.500 rule’’ in 2007, there have been no such modifications in women’s golf. As the women’s fields get stronger, however, some coaches say it’s possible such changes could occur.

Washington head coach Mary Lou Mulflur, who serves on the NCAA Women’s Division I Golf Committee, said the current postseason selection process still is the best option, and that the .500 rule is not likely to take effect in the immediate future. The .500 rule requires a team to have at least a .500 head-to-head won-loss-tie winning percentage in order to be eligible for an at-large bid into postseason play.

“At this time, we just don’t feel that’s a viable option to create the best field possible at the championships,” Mulflur said, adding that the .500 rule could dilute the field.

If the .500 rule were in effect for the 2010 postseason, 13 teams in Golfweek’s top 80 would not be eligible for postseason play.

East Carolina head coach Kevin Williams agrees that women’s golf is not ready for the .500 rule, but that it might have a place down the road.

“We’re getting there because of the depth of the game, and as the game grows on the women’s side, the. 500 rule will come into play,” he said.

At its core, the .500 rule is about a team winning more than it loses, and as Williams pointed out, winning is something all teams think about and have as a goal. He said he thinks all sports should have it, but women’s golf simply isn’t ready for it yet.

“My personal opinion is, I think we’re five years away from it,” Williams said. “We just have to keep growing the game, keep growing the depth of women’s college golf. It’s as deep now as I’ve ever seen it. There’re more good teams now than I’ve ever seen.”

Campbell coach John Crooks is a proponent of the .500 rule and served on the NCAA Men’s Division I Golf Committee when the rule was introduced. Crooks said the rule helps selection committees identify bubble teams apart from strength of schedule and comparisons within a field. It also has an effect on regular tournament fields.

“What happens when you institute the .500 rule is those top 30 teams can’t just keep playing each other because if they do, somebody is going to be a winner, somebody is going to be a loser,” he said.

Crooks said the rule is designed to broaden the sport for everyone, and thinks it would benefit the women’s game in the same way it benefits the men’s game. Crooks thinks it should be implemented in women’s golf, and said a committee has formed to present the possibility of adopting the .500 rule to the women’s committee.

“The very nature of receiving an at-large bid is to be rewarded for an outstanding season, and an outstanding season is not a losing season, by the very definition,” Crooks said.

Where the .500 rule is concerned, match play enters the picture because it offers teams fewer head-to-head matches in a single tournament. Traditionally the only such event for the women occurs during the fall at the NGCA Match Play tournament. Cal Poly head coach Scott Cartwright hosted a women’s match-play event for the first time last week that featured eight teams. 

Cal Poly plays many of its events as home, and Cartwright made the event – which featured men’s and women’s fields – match play after struggling to fill the men’s field. Cartwright said he thinks the women eventually will follow the men’s lead in adding match play to the national championship. He said the .500 rule is not yet needed in the women’s game.

“The depth is still not quite there,” Cartwright said. “We kind of know who the top 30 or 40 teams in the nation are, and after that it’s kind of a toss-up, just because of the depth that the teams have.”

Mulflur said talk of adding match play to the national championship has not come up in the committee since the fall season. In September, Mulflur told Golfweek that the topic had come up only briefly, and that there was no push to change the format of the national championship.

It appears that for now, the next big thing in women’s golf could be just a waiting game.

• • •

CHANGE IS GOOD: Florida State got its second win in a row Sunday at the Bryan National Collegiate since adding a couple of new faces for the spring season, including new interim head coach Kate Golden. The Seminoles also won the Pinehurst Spring Challenge on March 23, by 33 shots.

“We’ve had some good practices going into that tournament, and they’ve been playing a lot and just working really hard and everybody showed up,” said Golden, who was quick to shift any focus from herself and onto the team.

Another addition to the Seminoles is sophomore Maria Salinas, a transfer from Chattanooga. Salinas finished in a tie for fourth in her third start with the ’Noles. Salinas has consistently been among Florida State’s top scorers.

Salinas, who was named the Southern Conference Freshman of the Year in 2009, was second in scoring behind junior Emma de Groot during the 2009-10 season. She helped Chattanooga to two third-place finishes in the fall.

Since Salinas transferred, Chattanooga has dropped from No. 31 in Golfweek’s rankings to No. 50. Florida State has risen two spots, to No. 25.

Salinas joined the team before Golden took on coaching duties Feb. 22, but Golden notes that she is a solid player who already has helped the team.

“She’s definitely going to be a piece of the glue that keeps this team together, that’s for sure,” Golden said.

• • •

COMMANDING WIN: UCLA coach Carrie Forsyth doesn’t need to worry about her Bruins entering the postseason without tasting victory. The team claimed a six-shot win at the Betsy Rawls Longhorn Invitational on March 28. It was the first win for the Bruins since last year’s Central Regional, and their best finish since earning runner-up honors four consecutive times in the fall.

“It felt really good, kind of like getting the monkey off our back,” Forsyth said of the win.

Forsyth said she didn’t want the team to get in the habit of throwing a lead, or letting another team come from behind to snatch it away. This cures all of that. The Bruins will spend the next week “hammering out weaknesses” before entering the Ping/ASU Invitational, and the Pac-10 Conference Championship after that.

“We know going in it’s not going to be easy to win,” Forsyth said of the conference championship, where UCLA will face top-ranked Arizona State and No. 7 USC.

• • •

FIVE QUESTIONS WITH . . . Texas A&M junior Sarah Zwartynski, who won last week’s Betsy Rawls Longhorn Invitational by six shots.

1.) You had a wire-to-wire win at the Betsy Rawls. What was going through your mind going into the last day with the lead?

I basically just wanted to play one shot at a time, I was trying not to think about being in the lead and not focus on Stephanie (Kono, of UCLA) because I know I was playing with her. Just play my own game and really play one shot at a time, and it worked out for me.

2.) You’ve had quite a few top 10s in the past 2 1/2 years, so how does it feel to finally get your first college win?

It feels amazing. I didn’t even know when I finished playing, my teammate Julia Boland came up to me and said, “You won!” and I said, “Are you sure?” She said, “Unless you 8-putted that green, you won.” I was freaking out and really my teammates really helped me this semester.

We’ve been working really hard together, and Julia, she always tells me I have a really good game and she’s like, “You’re going to win sometime.” I am like, “OK.” She really was the one that got me to believe that I actually could do it.

3.) You have a sister who plays golf, Andrea (who played at the University of San Francisco and Houston Baptist). What is your relationship like with your sister on the course?

We’re actually really supportive of each other. If I’m going to lose, I want her to beat me, and she’s the same way. We have a lot of fun playing together, and we love teaming up and playing tournaments. We’re competitive. We play little matches and stuff, and we like to win, but we are really good together.

4.) You’ve lived in Texas most of your life, so what’s your favorite thing about Texas?

I guess I just love that everyone that lives in Texas has so much pride in their state.

5. What are your career plans?

Actually, I’m changing (majors). . . . I’m going to be a university studies major, I’m going to major in leadership and I’m going to minor in coaching and another minor in applied science and technology and secondary math. So basically, I want to be able to be certified to teach and coach. I would like to teach math in high school.

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