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Golf swings ahead

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Sonja Karp, NLJ Sports Editor

Trustees approve high school golf on a probationary basis

Newcastle High School will have a varsity golf team in the upcoming school year.

The Weston County School District No. 1 board of trustees voted 5-3 on April 24 to approve the sport on a probationary basis.

The sport will have a four-year probation period, according to Brad Troftgruben and Wyatt Voelker’s proposal, which Angela Holliday, the district’s business manager, provided to the News Letter Journal on April 29. If the golf league does not have enough players for a varsity team during the probationary period, the golf league will continue to provide funding as long as one player wants to compete. If the district chooses to continue golf after the probationary period, Troftgruben and Voelker recommend that the district cut the sport for the season if no more than two students sign up.

The league will pay the Wyoming High School Activities Association’s fee of $150 ($75 for boys and $75 for girls) and the $7 per student fee for catastrophic insurance. If any students who have McKinney-Vento Homeless Assistance Act status want to participate and ask the district for the funding, the league will cover the costs if the district is unwilling to pay.

The golf league or parents of participating students will pay for food and any necessary lodging. The school district will cover transportation costs, and the state will reimburse
the district.

As a probationary sport, the golf league will pay for coaching or find volunteer coaches.

Volunteers for the program will need to complete a form and undergo a background check, paid for by the volunteer, said Carrie Manders, the middle school activities director, at the March 27 meeting, where the first reading of the proposal was approved.

At the April 24 meeting, Board Clerk Billy Fitzwater and trustees John Riesland, Dana Gordon, Joe Prell and Paul Bau voted in favor of the proposal, while Chair Dana Mann-Tavegia and trustees Tina Chick and Sean Crabtree voted against it.

Chick said that while she likes golf, she is concerned about both the money and the impact she believes it will have on participation in other sports. Since the sport is played in both fall and spring, she believes it will affect the number of students participating in soccer, track, football, swimming, volleyball and cross-country, she said.

Voelker, an NHS graduate who played high school golf for Upton, told the board that golf runs at the same time as track season, but it
is heavily weather dependent, unlike other spring sports. Each season is three to four weeks, he said.

“Fall is the most set in stone, and that’s why state and all that is in the fall, but if it was a perfect spring season, it would start at the end of March and then go to the end of April,” Voelker said.

According to the proposal, head football coach Matt Conzelman said he has no issues with students finishing joining football after the golf season.

Fitzwater said that the sport might encourage children who do not already play sports to try a sport. He also noted the sport was being approved on a trial basis, and that “technically” it will not cost the district for four years.

“I’d like to look at it and see and give the other kids a chance,” Fitzwater said. “There might be kids that play golf that don’t do anything else.”

Trustee John Riesland said that while he has continuously advocated for activities for students and believes that activities bolster students’ test scores, GPAs, school involvement and ability to “keep out of trouble,” he is skeptical about the numbers and the money.

He said school boards have opted against cutting sports, making exceptions when a given sport’s participation was lower than a mandatory cutoff set by the board.

Voelker said that an interest meeting to gauge the number of potential participants drew enough people to make a team, even if half of the 10 high school boys who attended that meeting changed their minds. The meeting was held before the group had even asked the board to consider adding golf.

Mann-Tavegia said she likes that golf is a “lifelong sport,” like swimming, but that high school kids can play golf outside of school too. There is no place for high school kids to play football except for at school, according to Mann-Tavegia.

“It’s a hard decision, and we know we have to be careful with our money too,” she said.

Trustee Paul Bau said that he wants the group to be able to give it a shot.

“Competition is good, and if you’re competing against yourself in the scorecard, in my opinion, that’s the best competition there is. And the last thing I want to be known for is telling somebody I’m not even willing to give them a chance. So I think we should at least give them the opportunity to try, and, at the end of four years, if they fall, that’s on them, but at least they had their chance,” trustee Paul Bau said.

Board Vice Chair Jason Jenkins was absent from the April 24 meeting.

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