BOZEMAN – The Montana High School Association announced Thursday that the golf rule that bars spectators from watching high school golf matches will remain in place. The Association sent a survey to athletic directors of the 179 member schools. Of those schools, approximately two-thirds responded. Of those responses, 75 percent of ADs were against any repeal.

However, members schools work with courses to decide these spectator areas and the MHSA also surveyed 34 club professionals in Montana. In an opposite response, 31 of the PGA pros voted to grant full access to spectators on their courses.

Outcry from around the country — from parents, college coaches, PGA pros, and high school golfers themselves — has poured in to repeal the rule in response to a petition started by golf parent Chris Kelley. Montana is one of only a few states, a short list which also includes New Jersey, to still have such a rule in place. The rule will stand for the foreseeable future, as no member schools submitted a proposal to adjust the rule at the MHSA’s January meetings.

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The MHSA sent out this media release on Thursday regarding its decision to continue to enforce the rule:

“Thank you for your interest in Montana High School Association golf.

“MHSA member schools have consistently supported the following rule:

“(12) No spectators/fans are allowed on the course except for certain locations as designated by the tournament manager and club professional.

“Over the years, there have been proposals submitted to change the rule (a member school proposal with a vote of the 179 member schools) to increase spectator access and those proposals have failed. Past surveys have had golf course professionals and member school administrators not in support of full access for spectators.

“Recently, I directed that another survey be conducted of course professionals and member school administrators. I shared the results with our Executive Board during their recent meeting. The survey question was, ‘Would you be in favor of allowing spectators full access to the course during regular and post season meets?’ 34 course professionals responded and 31 were in favor of allowing spectators full access. Administrators were surveyed from schools who offer golf with roughly two-thirds responding; over 75% of those responses were against allowing spectators full access to the golf course.

“After reviewing the results, the MHSA Executive Board directed to continue to enforce the current rule however to also contact courses that host regular season and post season events to work with them to explore expanding those spectator viewing areas on each course without allowing total access. The staff will work to have those spectator viewing areas expanded at those courses that are open to designating additional viewing areas for spectators.

“The MHSA Annual Meeting of our schools was held recently held and there wasn’t a proposal submitted by a member school for consideration regarding this issue. Any of our 179 member schools can submit for consideration a proposal to change the above rule.”

3 COMMENTS

  1. This is embarrassing, if not criminal. The MHSA knows how badly this rule has hurt Montanans over the last 40 years. The petition I started on Change.org now has nearly 3,000 signatures. I personally sent Brian Michelotti, (the assistant director of the MHSA) more than 300 comments from the people who signed the petition. Some of those comments were heartbreaking. One dad from Helena begged the MHSA to change the rule so he could watch his boy play the last season of his high school career before he graduates this year. A mom from the town of Toston wrote: “My son asks for me to come to his tournaments. So I go and sit in the clubhouse or my car in the parking lot. I wish I could support him and the other kids in a better way.” How can these administrators ignore these pleas? Where is their heart? Where is their common sense? They are robbing us of some of the most important memories of our lives. And they have given no good reason whatsoever. The head golf coach at Montana State University wrote to the MHSA explaining how spectators have never been a problem at any of their tournaments. She offered to show them how she does it and urged them to change the rule. They ignored that offer and voted to keep the rule instead. This is horrible and shameless.

    • Hi Chris,

      The MHSA does not have the authority to change the rule. In order for the rule to change, a member school (i.e. an athletic director) has to propose a rule change. The member schools would then be able to vote the rule change through. However, none of the athletic directors proposed a rule change at the January meetings when given the opportunity, so a vote was never held.

  2. Hey Slim,

    Thanks for leaving a comment. Were you at the MHSA annual meeting this January? I have so many questions…maybe you can help answer them.

    1.) Did the MHSA share with the ADs the petition numbers (nearly 3,000) or the hundreds of comments bashing the anti-family golf rule? I sent them to Brian Michelotti (the MHSA assistant director) and asked him to share those with the ADs during the annual meeting this January, but haven’t heard if he did.

    2) Did the MHSA also share the news with the high schools that the head women’s golf coach at Montana State University runs 18 tournaments a year, allows full access to spectators, has never had a problem with them, and offered to help show the MHSA how she does it?

    3) Did the MHSA provide any background information whatsoever to the schools about the anti-family golf rule before asking them to vote on it in their survey question? For instance, did they inform them that there has been an overwhelming and unanimous public outcry against it?

    4) FYI, While it’s true that none of the member schools made a proposal to change the rule, Brian Michelotti admitted to me that the MHSA themselves could have put it on the agenda for their annual meeting this January, but refused to do so. Maybe the schools didn’t/don’t know how badly this rule is hurting families, but the MHSA certainly does and they did little to change it.

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