Madison Memorial coach Matt Hartmann is frustrated with the WIAA Division 1 boys golf postseason format.
Hartmann believes deserving teams and individuals aren’t able to advance to the Division 1 state tournament because of the current setup. According to him, one solution would be for regular-season performances to carry weight when determining state qualifiers.
“Something needs to change, that’s for sure – at least at the WIAA level in how they measure who gets in and how they get in,” Hartmann said, adding: “We need to figure out how to get the right teams there.”
The topic has come up again this year after Middleton finished first and Madison Memorial edged Waunakee by one stroke for the second state berth at last year’s sectionals.
A similar situation with highly regarded teams not making the state meet will unfold Wednesday at the La Crosse Country Club.
Waunakee, ranked third in Division 1 in the most recent Golf Coaches Association of Wisconsin poll, and fifth-ranked Middleton, eighth-ranked Madison Memorial, No. 14 Holmen, No. 16 Onalaska and No. 17 Verona are among the eight teams vying for two state spots at the Onalaska sectional.
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Three individuals not on the two qualifying teams will also advance to state, which is June 6-7 at Blackwolf Run (Meadow Valleys Course) in Kohler.
In another loaded Division 1 sectional advancing two teams, the eight teams at Tuesday’s Mequon Homestead sectional all were in the state rankings, including four in the top 10 (Wales Kettle Moraine, Hartland Arrowhead, Homestead and Sussex Hamilton).
“I think there are two really good sectionals in the state,” Middleton coach Tom Cabalka said. “Then you have sectionals that teams are going to shoot 350 and get in and teams are going to shoot 315 and not get in. There certainly is a discrepancy as far as talent and who’s bunched up.
“We have four really good teams in our sectional, really good teams, and the sectional over in the Milwaukee area has six really good teams. But it’s been that way for years and years and years. They want to represent the whole state. I don’t think we’re going to change that. ”
Desire for change
It won’t happen this year, but Waunakee coach Betsy Zadra would also like to see change.
“I know the disappointment they felt last year, coming up one shot short,” said Zadra, whose team had one individual advance (Max Brud, who finished tied for fifth at state).
Zadra said it’s up to her team to focus on staying in control of their games.
“My approach with my team is I tell them, ‘I don’t want to hear any complaints,'” Zadra said. “It’s the cards we are dealing with. We are in control of how we play. Last year, we lost by one stroke… but that’s on us. Our guys know we have to be one of the top two teams. We can’t worry about anyone else. It’s us against the course. ”
Still, Zadra understands Hartmann’s frustration.
“This has been going on for a long, long, long time and I’ve been doing this for a long time,” Zadra said. “It never changes and will probably never change. But it probably should change. ”
She said she believes the state tournament should include the state’s top teams.
“Something is flawed,” Zadra said. “I don’t know why they can’t have some at-large teams.”
Cabalka said the WIAA’s “goal is to represent the whole state. You can’t blame that. ”
But Cabalka said he’d love to see the format change.
Beyond rearranging which teams are in which regionals and sectionals, Cabalka said one idea that’s been suggested is switching from eight Division 1 sectionals to four, so more teams would play the same course, and advancing four teams to state from each of those sectionals.
Hartmann and Zadra each suggested a season-long point system for teams and individuals that would take into account players’ scores and course ratings and provide points of comparison.
Hartmann said a committee, such as tennis has for its WIAA state tournaments, could meet to determine at-large teams and extra individual qualifiers.
He also tossed out the ideas of seeding the teams after regionals and holding state at two different sites to accommodate more teams – one for Division 1 and the other for Divisions 2 and 3, as occurred last year in Wisconsin Dells.
“I just think the conversation needs to start,” Hartmann said.
WIAA assistant director Tom Shafranski said golf advances 208 golfers, more than any other state, and advances four teams and four individuals from each regional to sectionals, which is also more than any other state.
“Our courses are maximized as far as competitors in all of our WIAA tournament golf competitions,” Shafranski wrote in an email. “Sometimes to the point where we have to reduce the number of holes being played in a WIAA tournament series event when the weather disrupts the event.”
Every year the issue of tournament format is reviewed as a regular agenda item, he said.
“The WIAA rules are truly developed, maintained and / or modified as a result of the wishes of the 516 schools that comprise our membership,” Shafranski wrote. “Our member’s administration can initiate discussions and / or proposals at our regularly scheduled` Area Meetings’ each fall and / or through their regional representatives to the WIAA Coaches Advisory Committee, Advisory Council and / or Board of Control.
“WIAA executives are not able to unilaterally develop and make recommendations on their own. Numerous plans have been brought forward over the years; however, the current format continues to be identified as the best way to get as many high school golfers as possible state tournament series opportunities. ”
Golf, of course, isn’t the only WIAA sport where questions are raised about postseason.
Zadra said she believes changes will be made in the next couple years, aided by the Golf Coaches Association of Wisconsin.
“It would be nice to see something happen,” she said.
Until then, she said her players know the task at hand.
“They control their game,” she said. “That’s what we have to do Wednesday – control the things we can control and hope at the end of the day that we had a good enough effort and can advance.”
Photos: Athletes compete in WIAA Division 1 Sun Prairie sectional track and field meet