Last updated: September 19, 2012 5:19 pm
Prairie schools tee up for golf season, look to standardize tournaments
EDMONTON (CUP) — While golf isn’t a CIS varsity sport, schools across the prairies are working to solidify and standardize their tournaments en route to the national championships.
This weekend, the U of A will host the Golden Bears and Pandas Golf Invitational. Other schools from around Alberta — Mount Royal University (MRU), the University of Calgary and the University of Lethbridge — will visit to compete in the event as part of a season that also includes tournaments hosted by Lethbridge and MRU.
While these tournaments have existed for seven to eight years, this is the first year the coaches of these Alberta schools are looking to solidify a set schedule for them.
While golf is played as a varsity sport in Ontario and Quebec, the golf teams out west are so spread out that UBC and the University of Victoria compete in the NAIA south of the border instead of visiting the prairie schools for their tournaments.
“What we’re trying to do is create a league that they’re going to be able to buy into to have quality competition,” U of A golf head coach Robin Stewart said. “Right now, UBC won’t come and play in our tournament because they think they have better competition elsewhere.”
Prairie golf coaches also felt this change was necessary with the way UBC and UVic can consistently qualify for nationals. Up until this year, the western schools qualified for nationals at the University of Victoria Invitational.
But because the Royal Canadian Golf Association (RCGA) runs their championship while pumping more money into the programs at UVic and UBC to compete with American schools, west coast schools are assured spots at nationals each year.
“To get around everything, what a lot of the coaches in the prairie provinces decided is that we don’t always want to fly to Victoria to play on their home golf course to qualify for nationals,” Stewart said.
“We’ve created our own prairie championship which is going to be in Saskatoon. We basically said if we have five spots for nationals and two spots will automatically go to UVic and UBC, they can do whatever they want by themselves and then the prairie teams are going to play for these other two or three spots.”
According to Stewart, this system will do a better job of attracting sponsors for the schools’ invitationals. It can also be used to more effectively compare schools against each other for the national golf rankings released each October.
Going into this season, the U of A golf team expects to be as good if not better than it was last year. The U of A men finished in sixth place at nationals last season, their highest finish ever, while the women finished seventh.
Neither side lost many strong golfers to graduation, retaining many of their best players. In Alberta, the U of A should have no problem competing at their tournament this weekend with their provincial rivals.
“Mount Royal didn’t have a very good last year, but they’ve ramped up what they’re doing since they joined the CIS in each sport overall this year, so I think they’re going to be better this year,” Stewart said.
“Calgary had a tough year last year, but Lethbridge had the best team they’ve ever had, but then they lost four out of their five guys to graduation, so they’re probably rebuilding. I’d say this year we’re looking pretty solid to finish highly among those schools.
“The women’s team is better this year than it was last year — we added some very good talent. I think we can probably on the women’s side be in the top three or four in the country, and the men can be at least top six this year.”