'Making strides': Year after some sketchy scores in boys golf, MHSAA installs new rules
Last year around this time, Cody Inglis' cell phone was blowing up.
This week, barely a peep.
That's an encouraging sign that the integrity of high school golf in Michigan has taken a big step forward, a year after an alleged cheating scandal rocked the Michigan High School Athletic Association and its membership.
"Overall, very positive," said Inglis, an assistant director at the MHSAA who oversees boys golf. "We have one more regional score to come in today (Friday), but so far, so good. Knock on wood.
"We feel like going into the state finals next weekend, we'll have a good tournament, and a lot more positive vibes.
"We feel we're making strides."
The MHSAA this year implemented a couple changes to discourage stroke-shaving, and more changes are on the way next year.
This comes a year after two Metro Detroit high schools — Fair Haven Anchor Bay and Harrison Township L'Anse Creuse — posted regional scores significantly below their season average, and advanced into the 2018 Division 1 state tournament.
After shooting 284 and 296, respectively, in their regionals last year, Anchor Bay shot 385-353 and L'Anse Creue 401-376 at the state finals where there was considerably more adult oversight. L'Anse Creuse finished in last place with a 777, and Anchor Bay second-to-last with a 738, which were easily the worst team scores at the Division 1 finals over the previous 10 seasons.
Given a chance to come clean about the sketchy scores before the state finals, Anchor Bay and L'Anse Creuse officials met with their players but eventually supported their golfers. In that case, the MHSAA's hands were tied.
One significant change was put into place at this year's regionals. In previous years, one member of the group kept the score of one other member of the group. This year, each golfer kept the scores of all the other golfers in the group.
That protocol will continue at next week's four state finals tournaments.
Also this year, the MHSAA put more emphasis on coaches being on the course and checking in with their golfers, and periodically checking on scores.
"We've advised coaches to check scoreboards, 'Hey, how's it going Johnny? Let me see your scorecard,'" Inglis said. "Coaches have bought into that."
For the 2019-20 boys golf season, the MHSAA recently approved a rule that allows golfers to use their cell phones on the course for a variety of reasons, including getting distances, to contact a rules official, to contact their coach or a tournament administrator in the case of an emergency, and also to live-post their scores throughout the round.
In short, Inglis said, the MHSAA is trying to get more "eyeballs" on each golfer's scores throughout and after the round to avoid the controversy of a year ago.
In an ideal world, the MHSAA would have markers, or volunteers, walking with each group in regionals, but the truth is there just aren't enough to go around.
So the MHSAA is doing what it can, Inglis said. The system is not perfect, he concedes, but at least it's something.
And after last year, something had to be done, most in the prep golf community agreed.
"In the end, there was a lot more discussion about it this year, because of what happened last year," Inglis said.
"I'm happy it's gotten better, and you hope kids learn and get better."
At this year's Division 1 regional at Twin Lakes Golf Club in Oakland, Anchor Bay shot a team score of 356, and L'Anse Creuse 389, for 14th and 19th place, respectively, out of the 21-team regionals. Just one golfer for each school returned from last year's regional.
Lake Orion (298), Bloomfield Hills (313) and Romeo (314) took first, second and third at the regional. It's a nice redemption story for Bloomfield Hills, which finished fifth a year ago, missing the cut for states — when many believe they should've made it.
Boys golf state finals
Division 1: The Fortress, Frankenmuth
Division 2: Forest Akers West, East Lansing
Division 3: Katke, Big Rapids
Division 4: The Meadows, Allendale