UXBRIDGE — Emily Nash, a female student at Lunenburg High School, shot the best score at a boys’ golf tournament but was denied the trophy because she’s a girl.
Nash’s score of 75 in the Central Mass. Division 3 boys’ tournament Tuesday was four strokes better than the runner-up. But Nash wasn’t awarded first place and won’t advance to next week’s state tournament because of a rule set by the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association.
Nash played from the same tees as the boys, according to a story on pga.com, and shot 37-38.
According to the Worcester Telegram & Gazette, Nash was told prior to the tournament that she would advance to the state tournament only if her team qualified.
“But I wasn’t aware until after my round that if I won, I wouldn’t be able to get the title or the trophy,” Nash told the Telegram & Gazette. “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.”
The rule states that girls playing on a fall boys’ team can’t be entered in the Boys Fall Individual Tournament. That means the 16-year-old Nash can’t compete as an individual, and her score on Tuesday counted only toward her team’s total.
Nico Ciolino of the Advanced Math & Science Academy in Marlboro was the top male finisher, and the Telegram & Gazette reported that he offered the winner’s trophy to Nash, but she declined.
“I thought it was really nice of him,” Nash told the newspaper, “and I kind of felt bad for him because I knew he got the trophy, and he felt really awkward about it.”
MIAA associate director Richard Pearson issued a statement defending the organization’s handling of the matter.
“The MIAA and its member schools congratulate all golfers on their performance at the recent fall sectional team golf tournament,” said Pearson. “In particular, 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.
“The MIAA Golf Committee . . . has worked over the years to establish and manage both a boys and girls golf tournament. In the case of golf, these tournaments exist in two different seasons. The boys team and individual tournament has taken place in the fall and the girls team and individual tournament has taken place in the spring. During a sectional tournament round of golf, a golfer’s score is submitted for both an individual and team competition at each location.
“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 rules can be found here.