A high school golfer dominated a regional event but was denied entry to the state tournament because she is a girl

  • Emily Nash shot the best score at the Central Massachusetts Division 3 boys’ golf tournament, but she was not allowed to advance to the state tournament because girls were ineligible to win as individuals.
  • She played from the same tees as the boys, beating her closest opponent by four strokes.
  • The response from the pro golf community was overwhelmingly negative.

Emily Nash was the top golfer at the Central Massachusetts Division 3 boys’ golf tournament on Tuesday, but she was denied the trophy for one simple reason: she’s a girl.

According to the Telegram of Worcester, Nash, a junior at Lunenburg High School, shot a three-over 75 at Blissful Meadows Golf Club, four shots better than her closest pursuer. While her score still counted toward her team’s total, it was not included on the individual leaderboard, as Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association rules prohibit girls from that portion of the competition. Nash did not receive any hardware for her win, and the customary invitation into the state tournament was not extended.

Here’s the rule, according to the Telegram:

“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.”

Nash shot rounds of 37 and 38 from the same tees as the rest of the field. Her team failed to qualify for the state tournament, finishing fourth.

The story spread quickly. While some attacked the tournament’s rule as exclusionary and sexist, others focused on the fact that the lowest score didn’t win. Either way, the reaction from the pro golf community was swift and harsh:

But while many felt anger on Nash’s behalf, she seemed to have a healthy perspective when she spoke to the Telegram.

“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,” she said. “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.”

Her father, Bob Nash, echoed those sentiments, saying the snub was a “non-issue.”

“I just don’t think they ever planned for this scenario,” he said. “We’re not trying to trash them. A lot of people are upset with the MIAA, but it is what it is.”

While the MIAA congratulated Nash in a statement, it also reiterated its commitment to the rule.

“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,” it said. “The individual tournament opportunity for female golfers takes place during the spring season.”

In the days after the event, Masslive.com reported that another Massachusetts golfer, Agawam High School’s Angela Garvin, was also barred from the state’s boys individual tournament. Garvin, who competes in junior events across the country, said Nash texted her about the situation.

“It’s a tough rule because I can understand why they don’t want a girl to win both girls and boys, but the fact that we are playing from the same tees isn’t a level playing field,” she said.

The individual event’s official winner, Nico Ciolino, offered to give his trophy to Nash, but she declined. Tournament director Kevin Riordan said he plans to personally buy Nash her own trophy.

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