MIAA explains why female high school golfer who won boys' tournament was not allowed to claim trophy

Emily Nash
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Despite winning a boys' tournament by four strokes playing the same tees on Tuesday, Emily Nash was not allowed to collect the trophy.
By T.J. Auclair
PGA.com
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Series: Golf Buzz

Published: Thursday, October 26, 2017 | 1:56 p.m.

On Tuesday, high school golfer Emily Nash made headlines when she won the Massachusetts D3 Central Boys Golf Tournament by four strokes with a stellar 75.

A social media storm ensued when it was reported that Nash's score would not stand in the individual portion of the competition, but only in the team portion.

That meant that the boy who finished second, Nico Ciolino, would be awarded the trophy.

Making matters worse for Nash, her Lunenburg High School team total was not enough to qualify for the state tournament. She would have qualified individually with her victory, but because of a Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association rule, she was denied.

PGA.com reached out to the MIAA for clarification.

RELATED: Emily Nash shoots lowest score in boys' tournament, not allowed to claim trophy

Richard Pearson -- Assistant Executive Director of the MIAA -- kindly explained the situation.

"From management and concept of golf in the MIAA, we have girls play in the spring and boys play in the fall," Pearson said. "There are a lot of instances where on the girls side, there may not be enough players to field a team in the spring. In that case, the girls can compete individually. To afford them the chance to be a part of a team, we also allow them to play with the boys teams in the fall, where their score can only count toward the team total."

Pearson also put out the statement below regarding what happened on Tuesday:

The MIAA and its member schools congratulate all golfers on their performance at the recent fall sectional team golf tournament. 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 is proud to have her and her teammates participate and represent the 230,000+ student-athletes in our schools.

The MIAA Golf Committee, with a membership of school representatives from each district in the state, 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 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.”

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

We asked Pearson if he could foresee a change to this rule given the accomplishment by Nash on Tuesday.

"We are an association of member schools," he said. "We have a committee on golf made up of school administrators. They meet 2-3 times a year to discuss things like this. They will take this situation into consideration, I'm sure. They meet and they think about it and decide where they need to go with it. The decisions are always made in the best interest of the kids."

Pearson mentioned that a "good analogy" to describe what happened with Nash would be if there was a team competition on Monday and an individual competition on Tuesday.

"If it had happened that way," Pearson said, "This wouldn't even be a story. That's because Emily would have had her score to count toward the team on Monday and then wouldn't have been able to play Tuesday since her individual events are in the spring, girls' season."

Asked what he thought about Ciolino's attempt to give Nash the trophy he felt she rightfully deserved and earned, Pearson said he was impressed by the gesture.

"It's a great window into sportsmanship and who our kids are in schools," he said. "They had a great conversation on their own. I'll leave it at that. It shows who our teenagers are and what they're about." 

T.J. Auclair is a Senior Interactive Producer for PGA.com and has covered professional golf since 1998, traveling to over 60 major championships. You can follow him on Twitter, @tjauclair.