Mailbag: A parent’s idea for college match play

New Mexico won the Callaway Collegiate Match Play Championship on March 23, just one of several unpredictable moments this spring.

It’s Friday everyone, which means it’s time to go to the inbox. It seems that the most recent match-play tournaments across the country are continuously causing controversy. Today we hear from a parent of a college golfer who offers up an idea on how to make match play become more acceptable in college golf. College Dad, take it away.

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Subject: College Match Play Concerns

Hi Asher,

I tend to agree with some of Lance's concerns about the current match-play format used for the NCAA Championship and for the Callaway Match Play, etc.

It is self-evident that team match play can work well when you have formats such as those used for the Ryder Cup, the Walker Cup or the Palmer Cup, as these are one-on-one team matches and there is sufficient numbers of team members and enough opportunity provided over several rounds for the 'better team' to prevail. The result is that there is a deserved winner more often than not. 

I understand that the team match-play format currently in use in several college events – of 5 matches of 18 holes match play – is there because of necessity. However, I feel that the format probably leaves a little too much to chance, hence the reason for the upsets we've seen in the last year or two. You could say it's akin to comparing a result in a team stroke play tournament of one round to one of three rounds.  

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However, I don't think it is necessary to do away with match-play altogether. Most players I believe would benefit from the experience of head-to-head competition. 

As to a better format, I can see certain advantages in using a fourball singles medal match-play format, such as the one used in Round 2 of the Tavistock Cup. Sounds complicated but it's really quite simple.

Here's how it might work:

Colleges would enter a team of six, two players in each of three fourball groups. Each player in the group plays an 18-hole stroke play singles match against each of the opposing two players; therefore, each player plays two singles matches. A win is worth 1 point, a tie is worth 1/2 point, and a loss is worth 0 points. In total there will be a maximum of 12 points available for the team in the match. Also, let the coach decide on his pairings, rather than basing the order of play on ranked position. That way he can choose which of his players are best likely to complement each other in the fourball.

Of course it is always down to how players perform on the day, and inevitably there will be some upsets. However, I believe the above format would make it more likely that the results would reflect the relative strength of the teams. The players would have more chances of contributing to their team effort, which has got to be good for player and team motivation, and at least they would get to play all 18 holes in a match. Doing away with the shotgun start might also be an improvement.

I very much enjoy keeping up to date on college golf via your website.

Best Regards,

Paul Byrne, College Dad

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