MIAA Rule Denies Girl Golfer Boys' Golf Title

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Telegram & Gazette (Massachusetts)


Plenty of people are upset that because she’s a girl, Emily Nash wasn’t awarded the championship trophy at the Central Mass. Division 3 boys’ golf tournament on Tuesday even though she shot the lowest score.

The Lunenburg High junior isn’t upset, but she is disappointed.

Nash said she was informed before she teed off that as a girl, she would be eligible to compete in the Division 3 state tournament Monday at Wyantenuck CC in Great Barrington only if her team qualified, but she could not move on as an individual.

“But I wasn’t aware,” Nash said in a phone interview Wednesday from Settlers Crossing Golf Course, “until after my round that if I won, I wouldn’t be able to get the title or the trophy. So I was definitely disappointed, but I understand that there are rules in place. I don’t think people expected for this to happen, so they didn’t really know how to react to it. None of us are mad at the MIAA or anything like that, but I was definitely a little bit disappointed.”

Nash shot a 3-over 75 at Blissful Meadows Golf Course in Uxbridge on Tuesday, four strokes ahead of runner-up Nico Ciolino of Advanced Math & Science Academy Charter School of Marlboro. Nevertheless, Ciolino was declared the medalist. 

The Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association allowed Nash to compete with the Lunenburg High boys’ team in the Division 3 tournament because Lunenburg doesn’t field a girls’ team in the spring. But an MIAA rule states, “Girls playing on a fall boys’ team cannot be entered in the Boys Fall Individual Tournament. They can only play in the Boys’ Team Tournament. If qualified, they can play in the spring Girls Sectional and State Championships.”

The rule prevents girls from competing as individuals in both the spring and fall in golf, but the rule seems to have changed over the years. Nash said she competed as an individual in the Central Mass. Tournament as an eighth-grader even though her team didn’t qualify. Richard Pearson, MIAA assistant executive director, did not return a phone call, and Ann Trytko, MIAA assistant director and golf liaison, did not return an email.

“I just don’t think they ever planned for this scenario,” Bob Nash said about his daughter winning. “We’re not trying to trash them. A lot of people are upset with the MIAA, but it is what it is. The rules are the rules. They’re there for a reason. We played by them. We didn’t know obviously this one, which was a big one. I’m sure they’re going to look at this and hopefully figure out what is the best way to handle this in the future.”

“It’s a shame that the best score didn’t win,” said Joe Griffin, PGA professional and director of instruction at Blissful Meadows.

Wednesday’s T&G story about Nash not receiving the trophy prompted Boston television stations to interview her at Lunenburg High and at Settlers Crossing, and pga.com, golf.com and the Kansas City Star were among the media outlets to post articles on the topic.

“I think people feel it was an injustice,” Bob Nash said, “and I understand, (but) I think people are more bothered than we are to be quite honest. I’m a little surprised at the reaction. When she found out, she was like, ‘OK, no problem.’ She came home, she had dinner, and it was a non-issue.”

As the No. 1 golfer on the boys’ team, Nash is eligible to compete in the state sectional girls’ tournament each spring. Last spring, she finished third in the state sectionals girls’ tournament and fourth in the state girls' tournament, and she said she’d like to continue playing for the boys’ team in the fall and as an individual in the spring.

The 5-foot-1 Nash is a three-time T&G All-Star in girls’ golf. She was voted the Mid-Wach C League most valuable player in boys’ golf as a freshman and sophomore. The honor hasn’t been awarded yet for this fall.

Bob Nash said his daughter would like to play golf in college. 

“It would be really nice to have this win on her résumé,” he said, “but technically there’s nothing. It’s almost as if she never played in it. So to win the tournament and not really have anything to show for it I think is unfortunate, but she does get to compete in the spring with the girls.”

Trophy or not, Emily Nash considers herself to be the Central Mass. Division 3 medalist. 

“It’s a pretty big accomplishment,” she said. “I haven’t even won the girls’ districts, so it was nice winning the boys. I wouldn’t say it’s No. 1 because I’ve won a few two-day tournaments, but it’s definitely up there because I’ve never won against all boys before.”

Nash won the two-day Women’s Golf Association of Massachusetts Junior Amateur championship last summer.

Ciolino offered to give Nash the first-place trophy, but she declined to accept it. 

“I thought it was really nice of him,” Nash said, “and I kind of felt bad for him because I knew he got the trophy, and he felt really awkward about it.”

Central Mass. Division 3 Tournament Director Kevin Riordan said on Tuesday that he planned to purchase a first-place trophy for Nash. Riordan declined to comment further on Wednesday.

“I honestly didn’t even realize that until I read one of the articles,” Nash said. “That’s super nice of him.”

AMSA athletic director Pete Jones is also a first-year member of the MIAA state golf committee.

“The optics of (Tuesday) don’t look great,” Jones said. “I understand that. The MIAA is in a tough position, and so are we as schools because we’re doing our best to provide opportunities for all of our student-athletes, and Lunenburg is a school that as of now can’t field a girls’ golf team, so Emily gets to compete with the boys this fall. She’s a bona fide member of the boys' golf team. Then she’ll have an opportunity in the spring to compete with fellow high school girls golfers.”

Jones felt proud that Ciolino offered to give the trophy to Nash.

“I know he felt like he got beat and she deserved to be the champion,” Jones said. “I’m very lucky to have a guy like him who handled it that way. A classy act by him.”

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