Why aren't they playing Saturday at NCAA Women's Championship?

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Why aren't they playing Saturday at NCAA Women's Championship?

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Why aren't they playing Saturday at NCAA Women's Championship?

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Today had an odd feel.

Rarely in golf do you see an entire day cancelled. When it happens, it’s usually due to the course being unplayable. While Rich Harvest Farms certainly needed time to get back into playing shape after a morning storm rolled through the area, the afternoon forecast changed and, well, it’s quite pleasant out. Been that way for hours.

So why was Saturday play at the NCAA Division I Women’s Championship canceled for the day before 11 a.m.?

“We knew early on and last night that we were going to have a challenging day today,” said Jim Fee, chair of the NCAA Division I Women’s Golf Committee.

Last night the forecast for Saturday did not look good. Thunderstorms were predicted for much of the day. Play can’t start or continue for 45 minutes after the last lightning strike, usually within 10 miles of the facility. At this level of tournament play, golfers are used to waiting out delays with the objective of getting in as much golf as possible. Often that leaves tournament directors playing catch-up all week.

Now that TV is in the picture, it’s difficult to play catch-up at the NCAA Championship. An event that was already pressed for time grew even tighter when the men’s and women’s championships were first held in consecutive weeks three years ago. There are so many variables that can work against the TV time slots.

“What nobody probably realizes is the amount of rain the course did receive and how it affected the golf course,” said Fee. “I believe we had around an inch of rain out here.”

Golf course superintendent Jeff VerCautren knew rain could be a problem with more than 100 bunkers on the golf course. Therefore improvements were made to the bunkers at Rich Harvest Farms to help with drainage, cutting the time in half to repair them after a big storm.
In the eyes of tournament officials, it was still too much time.

“Now we are looking at how much play we would be able to get in,” said Fee. “That amount of play really made it difficult for us to get the field with the same experience for the second round. Had we started play, then we were going to have those amount of players that are on the course, and that experience of this afternoon, and then putting the rest of the players that didn’t get out here … in a different condition tomorrow.”

There is your answer.

Because it was likely that the entire field would not finish and, some possibly not even start the second round on Saturday, the decision was made to cancel play altogether. This resulted in the stroke-play portion of the championship being reduced from 72 to 54 holes. Eighteen holes will be played on Sunday, and a final 18 holes on Monday, with the field being cut to eight teams for match play. An individual champion also will be crowned after 54 holes.

“We looked at was better for the championship,” said Fee, “and we want to get our eight teams and our individual champion on Monday evening so we can begin the match play portion. So, what were our options to do to be able to do that. Is it out and in, out and in as needed…. We didn’t think we would get there for 72 holes.”

Making decisions that have so many implications are never easy. And it is simple to play armchair quarterback after the fact. However, golf is an outdoor sport, and when you have a strict schedule to follow and a championship venue located in an environment where weather is certain to be an issue over a span of two weeks, this type of decision-making will be common.

Getting the bad side of the draw is simply part of the game (i.e. British Open). Players and coaches understand that, expect it too.

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