The BYU women’s golf team has been allowed to get an early start in the NCAA championships this week because of the Mormon school’s longstanding stance against participating in athletic events on Sundays.
BYU will play on Thursday through Saturday at the Eugene County Club in Oregon. The other 23 teams vying to advance to the round of eight will begin play in Eugene on Friday and wrap up Sunday. The top eight teams move on to match play next week.
NCAA spokeswoman Gail Dent said in an email that NCAA bylaws provide for accommodations to be made for schools that have a written policy against competition on a particular day because of religious reasons. Schools must have submitted the policy to the NCAA by Sept. 1 of the school year during which they may seek accommodations.
The team plans to attend church services in Oregon on Sunday.
This is the first time BYU has advanced to the championships since 2007.
The pin positions Thursday will be set the same as on Sunday. Lea Garner, Kendra Dalton, Alexandra White, Brooklyn Hocker and Rose Huang will start on five different holes for BYU and play alone.
Opposing teams, officials and spectators are permitted to watch the Cougars.
“It’s obviously a unique situation,” BYU coach Carrie Roberts said. “All we know is how to approach a golf round, which is what we’re going to do. We’re not going to try to do much different.
“Sometimes (playing with an opponent) that helps and sometimes it hurts. Sometimes it can be a negative to watch somebody else play, especially if that player’s playing poorly. It can throw you off.”
There will also be a different feel on Sunday when all the other competitors are dealing with the pressure of the final day.
“I kind of like it,” Roberts said. “We’ll have played our three rounds and posted a score. Hopefully, we can post a decent score and the field knows exactly what they have to beat. Everybody’s going to feel different types of pressure. … It’ll be different for (everyone) and that’s just kind of the uniqueness of the situation.”
There have been several instances before with BYU athletics when it looked like there may be a Sunday conflict in NCAA tournaments, but the school lost before it was an issue. The NCAA adjusted the North Carolina softball regional schedule in 2008 to accommodate BYU.
Peter Fields, Montana State’s athletic director and chairman of the NCAA women’s golf committee, said there was some discussion about how to work with BYU and make it as fair as possible.
Course conditions play a role in any round of golf and that was also a topic in regards to fairness. Thursday’s forecast calls for a high of 56 degrees with occasional rain showers and Sunday’s calls for a high of 60 degrees with showers throughout the day.
“On some days the conditions will change from the morning tee time to the afternoon tee time,” Fields said. “That’s golf. You may get halfway through your round and conditions change. We’ve got a really good committee and they’re sensible. … Everybody’s on board with what we’re doing. BYU earned the right to be here and we have the bylaw (in place).”
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