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RHS golf has do over

CULLMAN —   Golf is a game meant to be played for fun and relaxation. The key word there is “meant,” as many people only find frustration out on the course.

Still, the game sports great team competition at the high school level, and this season the Russellville Golden Tigers are having a good year.

The team was poised to compete at the sub-state tournament at Teri Pines Country Club in Cullman Monday, and for several holes each player did indeed compete.

That is, playing on a wet and sloppy course that made for terrible playing conditions and even worse scores.

Fortunately for everyone involved play was eventually suspended to wait for another day, but unfortunately even more complications then arose.

“It’s kind of complicated,” Russellville head coach Jason Haithcock said. “Kids today from all teams played anywhere from 10-15 holes of golf.

“AHSAA rules say in case of inclement weather, and all participants do not complete their rounds, you must play the next available date and everyone must start over, because everyone should have to play in the same conditions.

“When we left Cullman that was not the case. They had decided we would pick up where we left off [Tuesday], which is not the AHSAA rule.

“So that has just been changed in the last hour. I was just informed. So it has been a weird day to say the least in the sports world.”

What were the conditions like, and what made the host postpone? Coach Haithcock sheds some light on those questions.

“Water was running across the fairways. Bunkers were filled with water. Greens were holding water,” he said.

“Kids should never have been asked to go out in it and play. I do think it will be better [Tuesday], but it will be wet out there no matter what.

“There shouldn’t be water running across the greens, and they should have a chance to get the bunkers cleaned out. It’s still going to be a wet mess.”

With the course in such bad shape due to the near-constant rain received over the weekend, one wonders why play was even started on Monday.

“I have no idea,” Haithcock said. “I’ve been trying to figure that one out all day long. To me it was an easy call that it should have been postponed to [Tuesday.]

“That should have been the call early. I don’t know why they thought they had to get it in today, but it’s not my call, it’s the team hosting’s call.

“I know that the course doesn’t want to be shut down for two days because they have members and they’re trying to cater to them, but sometimes you have to use a little common sense, and we fell short of that today.”

Golfers from Russellville played between four to eight holes Monday, but members of some teams had to play several more in the poor surroundings. The correct call was to start the tournament over, as per AHSAA rules.

“My thing was, the boys who had to play 15 holes in that mess and were going to have to come back and play three, and my guys who played four holes in a wet mess and were going to get to play 14 holes tomorrow in the sunshine,” Haithcock said.

“To me that’s not right for those kids that had to stay out in it Monday. It doesn’t matter if it’s my players or someone else’s, and it doesn’t matter if my team was winning or not, that was not going to be fair to those who had been out in the rain all day.”

The rain, wet conditions and indecision about the tournaments’ proceedings take away from other, larger factors at work with the competition. The two largest obstacles at the sub-state tournament each year are the difficulty of the course and the caliber of opponents faced.

“They have the course set up to be extremely hard. They’ve got it playing very long,” Haithcock said.

“Scores for all teams will be a good bit higher than you will normally see a school shoot. Normally we’re around a 305 or 306.

“A good score for us here will be a 310 to a 315. They’ve got the course playing extremely tough right now, and I wouldn’t be surprised if some scores even higher than that qualified for state from what I saw today.

“I told people earlier this year that it might be harder to qualify at sub-state than to win the state title.

“Sub-state has always been hard to make. We’ve made it four years in a row, and last year was our first time to move on past this level. You have the best golfers in the north here, and it’s very tough.”

Despite the conditions, course difficulty and ability of their opponents, Coach Haithcock knows what it will take for his team to be successful and move on to the next level.

“If we can play like we’ve been playing we’ll be fine,” he said. “If we go and a couple of them have a few bad holes, then we may find ourselves on the outside looking in.

“If we play the brand of golf we’ve been playing since the beginning [of the year] we’ll be fine.”

The competition was restarted Tuesday morning, but golfers from all teams did not finish until well after press time, so scores were unavailable.

Results from the sub-state tournament will be in Saturday’s edition of The Franklin County Times.