EUGENE, Ore. – To the casual observer of college golf, Texas’ inability to substitute a player for an injured Beau Hossler in the NCAA championship match Wednesday against Oregon might have been confusing.
Texas was one point down before the match even started after Hossler, the No. 3 player in the Golfweek/Sagarin College Rankings, announced that he would not be able to play because of an ailing left shoulder. The development played a vital part in Oregon’s 3-2 victory in the national championship.
The Ducks needed to win only two of the four matches to secure three points and clinch the title, and they did it with Sulman Raza’s 5-foot birdie putt on the 21st hole.
What happened at Eugene Country Club might be the reason why we will see substitutions allowed someday in college golf.
There is a motion on the table with the NAIA Women’s Golf Coaches Association on allowing substitutes. Imagine that: The NAIA women setting the trend for the college game.
Expect this issue to gain support at other levels of college golf. It could be known as “The Beau Hossler rule.”
Substitution has been a topic of discussion among college coaches in each of the past two annual conventions in Las Vegas.
Tournaments generally require five players to compete, with the low four scores counting each day. At the NCAA Championship, match play is used to determine the team champion from among the top eight qualifying out of stroke play.
Here at Eugene Country Club, a substitution would have been a logical move for Texas head coach John Fields after Hossler hurt himself on the 15th hole of his semifinal victory Tuesday. A seemingly simple move comes with complications, however. Among them:
— Budget: Though the top third or so of the Division I programs are funded to win nationally, many programs wouldn’t be able to afford putting a sixth player on the road for each event. It could require an extra hotel room, often another plane ticket, plus food and incidentals.
— Academics: College golfers often miss more class time than other student-athletes, given that the sport spans fall and spring seasons. Pulling another student away from campus compounds that reality.
— Player records: What happens to the statistics for the player who is removed from the lineup and the substitute? Do they figure into the individual standings? If a substitute shoots 65 in a final-round relief effort, where does he finish? There is no logical way to score that player in a tournament.
Of course, any amendment could be written so that a substitute would not be mandatory. It could be optional. However, that would further separate the “haves” from the “have-nots” in the game.
Perhaps the biggest impediment to allowing substitutes in college golf would be the length of the typical tournament. Most sports have games with defined starting and ending points in a relatively tight window of time on one day. College golf tournaments can last 10-plus hours on a 36-hole day. A regular-season tournament can span 3-4 days; at the NCAAs, it’s seven days, counting a practice round. It’s easy to understand how a player can get sick or injured in a week’s time.
With so much on the line in college golf, it only makes sense to be able to change a lineup during the event.
For any change to be effective, substitution would have to be allowed for any reason, be it injury or poor performance. Leave it to the coach’s discretion, just as in other team sports.
With a national championship at stake, Hossler’s pivotal injury provided a textbook example of why substitutions in college golf make more sense than ever.