Emily Nash has an avid supporter from halfway across the world after the Lunenburg High junior posted the best score in the Central Mass. Division 3 boys' golf tournament on Tuesday, but was declared ineligible for medalist honors or a berth in the state tournament because she is a girl.
Shrewsbury native Brittany Altomare, competing this week in the Sime Darby LPGA Malaysia event, said via text message Thursday that because Nash played from the same tees as the boys, she should have been declared the winner.
"She should be awarded medalist honors," Altomare texted from Malaysia, which is 12 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time, "and allowed to play in states as I did. Very disappointing."
Competing for Shrewsbury High in 2008, Altomare tied for fourth place in the Central Mass. Division 1 boys' golf tournament and tied for 12th in the state tournament.
Altomare, 26, shot an opening-round 1-under 70 on Thursday and is tied for 20th in Malaysia. She ranks 29th on the LPGA Tour money list with $631,081 in her second LPGA Tour season.
Altomare played for the boys' golf team at Shrewsbury High and played from the same tees as the boys.
"If I won a match or qualified for districts," she texted "or states there was no excuse. I won (or) qualified fair and square."
Altomare added, "If a girl wants to play on the boys' golf team, I think that's awesome and I am all for that."
Nash carded a 3-over 75 at Blissful Meadows Golf Course in Uxbridge on Tuesday to beat runner-up Nico Ciolino of ASMA by four shots, but Nash did not receive the championship trophy.
An MIAA rule prohibits girls from competing as individuals in the fall in the boys' sectional and state golf tournaments because they can compete in the girls' sectional and state golf tournaments in the spring. So, Nash counted only towards her team score on Tuesday, and didn't advance to the state tournament because her team didn't.
Last spring, Nash finished third in the state sectional girls' tournament and fourth in the state tournament. She competed as an individual because Lunenburg doesn't have a girls' golf team.
The Division 3 boys' state tournament will be held Monday at Wyantenuck CC in Great Barrington.
Ciolino offered to give Nash the trophy, but she declined to accept it.
Nash said she was informed before she teed off that as a girl she would be ineligible to advance to the state tournament an individual, but she wasn't aware that she was also ineligible for Central Mass. medalist honors.
"So, I was definitely disappointed," she said, "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."
"It's definitely a unique circumstance, in all honesty," said Richard Pearson, MIAA assistant executive director.
Altomare posted a Global Golf Post story about Nash on Twitter and she tweeted, "Very disappointing. Gender does not matter. She played the same tees. A win is a win. She should be allowed to play as an individual in states as I did."
Two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange was among the many who can't understand the rule. He tweeted, "High school golfer not awarded first-place trophy -- because she's a girl. Really?"
The rule prohibiting girls was added after the 2015 and before the 2016 fall seasons, according to the MIAA Boys' Fall Golf Tournament information sheets.
Nash said she competed as an individual in the Central Mass. tournament as an eighth-grader, even though her team didn't qualify.
Pearson said he didn't know why the rule was changed and that it would be up to the MIAA golf committee, which is composed of school principals, assistant principals and athletic directors, to change the rule barring girls from competing as individuals.
Pearson said the golf committee would also decide whether girls could skip playing in the spring altogether for the chance to compete as individuals in the fall.
"It's going to be up to them to see where they go and what they do," Pearson said.
Asked what he thought of the uproar from people who thought the MIAA should have allowed Nash to be declared the medalist, Pearson referred to a statement the MIAA issued Thursday included the rule barring girls from participating in the boys' sectional and state golf tournaments as individuals, because they have that option in the spring in the girls' sectional and state tournaments.
The MIAA reported that 26 girls competed on boys' golf tournaments this fall.
The statement also congratulated Nash, but didn't name her, referring to her as, "Lunenburg's female golfer."
This article is written by Bill Doyle from Telegram & Gazette, Worcester, Mass. and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.