BOZEMAN – The 40-year-old rule barring spectators from golf courses in Montana has been a hot-button topic in the sports scene with a lot of outcry from parents. But now one of the biggest golf organizations in the country has thrown its weight into the issue.
The American Junior Golf Association, one of the biggest organizations in the country, has announced it is holding a golf tournament in Montana over Labor Day weekend at Big Sky Resort.
The AJGA hosts tournaments around the nation that feature the best youth golf talent in the entire world. Alumni of the AJGA include Tiger Woods, Jordan Spieth, Phil Mickelson and many more. Brittany Basye, the head golf coach at Montana State, is excited that this tournament is right in her backyard.
“For them to come and approach us and to go to Big Sky even — which is closer to me, which is awesome — it’s huge. It’s a big deal for junior golf in Montana,” said Basye.
For Basye, bringing the type of talent that the AJGA possesses will elevate the game in Montana.
“It’s vital for both our programs, both male and female. Just hearing that the AJGA is coming to Montana is unheard of,” said Basye.
In the AJGA’s 40 years of existence, this the first time that it is hosting a tournament in the Treasure State. It’s somewhat of a protest event in response to the controversial rule put in place by the Montana High School Association’s member schools that limits spectator viewing areas at high school matches.
The rule is more than four decades old, and at some courses, parents are forced to stay in the clubhouse or in parking lots. Some fans run around the surrounding neighborhood peeking between houses or sit on hills with binoculars, hoping to catch a glimpse of their son or daughter playing.
But at the AJGA tourney, spectators are allowed anywhere to show Montana that crowds aren’t harmful.
“I think what will be really good to happen, is to have some of those high school administrators come to this tournament,” said Basye. “And just get a taste of what it’s like and how those tournaments are actually run and that spectators aren’t that bad. And it has to be controlled and it has to be said up front what the expectations are.”
While spectators will be the main draw, the second main point of this tournament is inviting college coaches from around the country, and especially from Montana, to scout Montana golfers, because, like parents, coaches are also barred from the courses during season.
“Just to have the ability to say they get to go to an AJGA golf tournament, which is a very prestigious group where top kids are recruited from the AJGA,” said Basye. “So they have an opportunity to watch these kids, too. And like I said it’s not going to cost them a lot of money to drive to Big Sky.”
Basye knows that this is a big first step to getting spectators back on the golf course and it really helps to have a big organization like the AJGA supporting them.
“Get Montana up with the times, like, ‘Let’s go.’ It’s time to support these kids and the AJGA,” said Basye. “They’re sending a message saying, ‘Hey, Montana, let’s support these kids.'”