2006: Rules more closely aligned

By Beth Ann Baldry

It turns out the U.S. Golf Association and NCAA aren’t ruling each other out after all.

Last summer, the USGA voted to allow amateurs the opportunity to accept expenses to participate

in competitions beginning this January, provided the money comes from a state or regional golf association. The change in amateur golf jibes with NCAA rules already in place.

Women’s college coaches attending the National Golf Coaches Association convention Jan. 9-11 in Lake Tahoe, Nev., received a breakdown of how the USGA’s new rule will affect student-athletes.

According to the NCAA, student-athletes may accept expenses from the following sources: outside amateur teams or organizations, event sponsors, parents or legal guardians and the sport’s national governing body (USGA). Reimbursements cannot exceed the amount of actual and necessary expenses for each event. The biggest discrepancy between the two organizations centers around the earmarking of funds. In short, the USGA allows donors to specify, or earmark, their gifts for an individual athlete, while the NCAA does not.

“If Joe’s Bar and Grill is going to pay all my expenses, that’s basically a salary or play-for-pay, and the NCAA doesn’t allow that,” said Ellen Ferris, an NCAA Membership Services Representative.

“If Joe’s Bar and Grill wanted to donate that money to the AJGA, and the AJGA decides how to give out the money, that’s OK.”

That means prospective student athletes can accept tournament expenses from programs such as the AJGA’s ACE Grant and still comply with NCAA rules. Also, college students who otherwise couldn’t afford to travel the summer amateur circuit now can accept aid from state organizations.

“I think it basically comes down to opportunity,” UNC-Wilmington coach Cindy Ho said. “If they can have a chance to play in one or two more tournaments representing their state, I’m all for that.”

Players such as LSU’s Alexis Rather, however, aren’t getting their hopes up. Rather said she had heard about the rule change in passing, but says it’s not really a hot topic among her peers since, at this point, money isn’t exactly being thrown in their direction.

“I haven’t been approached by anyone,” said Rather, who ponied up money to play in four events last summer. “It would definitely be a nice option – every little bit helps.”

Much of the conference’s compliance/legislative session also centered around the NCAA’s new Amateurism Clearinghouse. Designed to create consistency among institutions, the clearinghouse will determine eligibility for domestic and international student-athletes entering Division I and Division II beginning in fall 2007. Students will fill out forms online in conjunction with the existing academic clearinghouse.

The two main areas of concern raised at the NGCA convention centered around the wording of the amateurism rules and the clearinghouse’s potential to bog down an already cumbersome system of declaring athletes eligible to compete.

“We have a lot of challenges, and one is to make it simple enough so that a 16-year-old in Estonia can know what we’re talking about,” said Ferris, who says the forms still are being tweaked.

UNC-Wilmington’s Ho had a hard enough time getting freshman Stephanie Noser cleared academically for the ’05 fall season. The Switzerland native already had missed the first tournament by the time NCAA officials deciphered her education at the Inter Community School-Zumikon.

“It already takes so long for their academic stuff to be cleared,” Ho said. “Now, you add another thing. . . . With all the international students applying, how much time is that going to take?”

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