Emily Nash, who had the best score at a boys' golf tournament in Massachusetts, has been denied the trophy — and the right to advance to the state tournament — because she's a girl.
But despite public outcry that has included angry tweets from players on the PGA and LPGA tours, the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) is sticking by its decision.
In a statement released Thursday, the MIAA said: "The skill of the female golfer from Lunenburg was on display as she represented her personal ability and effort on behalf of the Lunenburg High School Boys Golf Team." Still, the association stuck by its ruling that Nash, a junior at Lunenburg High School, did not win the Central Massachusetts Division III individual golf title earlier this week. Nash, playing from the same tournament tees as the rest of the field, shot a 75 that was the lowest score by four shots.
The MIAA's policy states that while girls can play on the fall boys golf teams, they cannot be entered in the individual portion of the fall playoff tournaments, and can only compete as a part of the team. Lunenburg did not advance as a team, so Nash's medalist score will go unrewarded.
In the statement, the MIAA reasserted its policy:
"To offer an opportunity for team play to all MIAA member school students, female golfers have been welcomed to participate on a boys team in the fall if their school did not sponsor a girls golf team in the spring. Approximately 26 female golfers participated in 2017 fall boys golf tournaments. This opportunity has been met positively by many student-athletes and school programs. Given this team opportunity during the fall tournament season, it has been clear to participants that female golfers playing in the fall boys team tournament are not participating in an individual capacity. The individual tournament opportunity for female golfers takes place during the spring season. As stated in the official MIAA 2017 Fall Golf format, "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."
Hall of Famer Curtis Strange made it clear in several tweets that he was no fan of the ruling.
Emily and her family will be just fine. Not sure about the MIAA. Feel so badly that a young female who loves golf has to go thru this https://t.co/Sy6U3yvoE2— Curtis Strange (@golf_strange) October 27, 2017
In its statement, the MIAA went on to congratulate Nash, but did not mention her by name.
"We congratulate Lunenburg's female golfer on her performance and wish her continued success as she participates once again in the MIAA Girls Individual Golf Tournament in the spring of 2018."
The Massachusetts girls individual state tournament and team season (for those schools with enough players to field a girls team) takes place in the spring.
According to Masslive.com, Angela Garvin, a high school golfer from Agawam, Mass., faced a similar scenario. Garvin finished second in the Western Mass. Division I Tournament. She will move on with her team to the state event but not be permitted to compete for the individual title. Garvin, who has committed to play college golf at Maryland, told MassLive that she had been in touch with Nash after the event via text.
"It's a tough rule," she said, "because I can understand why they don't want a girl to win both girls and boys, but the fact that we are playing from the same tees isn't a level playing field.
"I think if we are going to play the same tees, let us play individually, but if you let us play forward, don't let us play individually," Garvin continued.
The MIAA's complete statement can be found below: