As he stood on the steps of the clubhouse at the University Club in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, shortly before 1 p.m. ET, NCAA Committee representative Brad Hurlbut delivered a message that nobody wanted to hear.
“This is one of the most gut-wrenching decisions and announcements that I’ve ever been a part of,” Hurlbut said in a video posted to Twitter. “Even though the course is playable, it’s not playable at a championship level. … Again, heart-wrenching decision that we had to make.”
Before he could finish, many people listening began shouting.
We can play!
It’s a championship, let us play!
Are you serious?!
After three days of no golf at the Baton Rouge Regional, one of four NCAA Division I women’s golf regionals being contested this week, the NCAA committee made the controversial decision of advancing teams based on seeding. According to an NCAA statement, the University Club had taken on over 7 inches of rain in the past several days, prompting “this unprecedented and most difficult decision” by the committee.
It’s worth noting that the host school, which happened to be top-seeded LSU, does not dictate the final decision, though university employees do run the golf course and therefore would play a role in the process. The Tigers were among six schools to advance to next week’s NCAA Championship, along with Ole Miss, Baylor, Oregon, Maryland and Alabama. The three highest-ranked players in Golfstat not on advancing teams also made it through: Houston’s Karen Fredgaard, Miami’s Nataliya Guseva and Sam Houston State’s Hanna Alberto.
“Unfortunately, a lot of events happened that we couldn’t control, but now we’re focused on the next step,” LSU head coach Garrett Runion told GolfChannel.com. “At the end of the day, everybody wanted to play, and everyone wants to let their clubs do the talking and not have it pulled from their hands. And that creates tension when you have to make a gut-wrenching decision like the NCAA did.”
Alabama head coach Mic Potter, who has been coaching for 35 years, said he’s never seen anything like what happened this week. Heavy rains doused the golf course beginning Monday, with the final 2 inches falling overnight before Wednesday’s final round. While many people in attendance, from coaches and players to spectators, argued that the course was playable for periods all three days and that course staff did not exhaust its resources, it also should be noted that had teams played Wednesday, they would’ve done so using lift, clean and place, and the bunkers, some of which were still having water pumped from them at 11 a.m. ET Wednesday, would likely not have been in play. The seventh hole also had a small lake of standing water in its fairway.
"There were puddles ... but they were supposed to have pumps and hoses and squeegees," Miami head coach Patti Rizzo said. "I walked 18 holes and took a video of every single hole ... there were so many options they could've done."
NCAA rules stipulate that regional competition cannot extend past Wednesday, and that if 18 holes could not be completed then the committee would use seeding as its criteria. But many coaches, even some outside the top six, agreed that 18 holes in these conditions would not properly identify the teams worthy of qualifying for nationals.
One coach who wished to remain anonymous called it a “lose-lose” situation.
“I know that they did everything they could do to get it in, and from what I saw, they made the right choice because at the end of the day, they couldn’t get it in good enough shape to have a championship experience,” Baylor head coach Jay Goble said. “It’s unfortunate, obviously we’d all like to have played golf and would feel better about playing 54 holes and earning it that way. I feel so bad for the guys having to make that decision. It probably wouldn’t have been fair for the low six teams if we had played and then for the other 12 teams, they have to feel gutted, as well.”
Among the teams who had their seasons end without hitting a shot: No. 7 Oregon State, No. 8 Houston, No. 11 Purdue and No. 12 Mississippi State.
“I really didn’t have anything to say to my players,” said Bulldogs head coach Charlie Ewing, whose regional lineup included fifth-year senior Clara Moyano, who decided to return for an extra year after the COVID-19 pandemic canceled the final three months of last season. “It’s hard to be prepared for something like that, and strangely enough, you feel like you should be prepared because it’s almost déjà vu of what we went through 14 months ago with the season just abruptly ending and nobody being able to do anything about it. I just told the team that it’s not what we deserve and that I love them, and that’s really all I felt like I could say.”
LPGA player Stacy Lewis, wife of Houston head coach Gerrod Chadwell, had plenty to say.
"There’s a lot I could say on this, but NCAA, you failed these kids," Lewis wrote on Twitter. "Be creative, be willing to adapt, and most importantly, let their play decide who plays for a national championship."
Added Chadwell, speaking to Golfweek: “This place has zero business hosting another regional. You find a way to get it done.”