There is a lot of excitement in the air — even more than expected — over the girls golf program implemented for the first time this spring by the UHSAA.

"We underestimated the response," said Brad Bevan, president of the Golf Coaches Association and athletic director at Bingham.

Amy Fisher from the Utah Section PGA has spearheaded the movement to get it all going. She began a pilot program more than four years ago after reading an article in Golf Magazine, which pointed out how some 3,500 college golf scholarships for women go unclaimed each year in the United States.

"Our main goal was to get these girls eligible for a scholarship," Fisher said.

She began by organizing a tournament for high-school-aged girls. Thirty five showed up for the first one. Four years later, in 2006, 75 girls participated.

Fisher gives credit to many of the big names in golf in Utah for getting this going after meeting last summer. They include Joe Watts, head of Utah PGA, Dave Terry, director of golf for Salt Lake City Public Courses, and Evan Excell and Dave Wilkey of the UHSAA.

"Once they saw the girls coming out and wanted to play, they made it happen," Fisher said.

Fisher added, "It has taken pushing and begging and pleading."

But she admitted surprise that once they decided to do it, the implementation moved very quickly.

"This is the first sport the UHSAA has added in 13 years," Fisher said.

Of course, there are bugs to be worked out. Some coaches don't know how qualifying for state will work. Pine View coach Gary Higgins is exasperated that of the 13 girls who came to tryouts, only three or four had any golfing experience.

He joked, "I have come home on a couple of days and said, 'I'm not getting paid enough for this.'"

But Higgins realizes that it will take time for the program to mature.

"It will take a little patience to develop those who haven't played a lot," he said, "but in a couple of years it won't be like that. ... I am really enjoying this."

A couple of programs, Davis being one, are going all out to accommodate any girl who wants to play.

"Thirty girls came out and we kept all 30 on the team," Darts coach Mitzi Torgersen said.

She is quick to credit the support of Matt Lyons of Davis' home course, Valley View, for working with the team to be able to keep that many players.

Olympus coach Dave Desantis said 14 girls came out but only eight decided to stay with the team.

"We accommodated as many as wanted to come," said Desantis, who is also the director of instruction at River Oaks.

Park City encountered another problem: Its course is covered with snow. The Miners have to travel to the Glendale course to practice. Coach George Murphy said seven of his team's 12 members are freshman.

Bob Pickering deals with a problem at Jordan that afflicts many schools that may not have the affluence to field a team. Some girls cannot afford private instruction and thereby just don't play the game.

"When we first announced tryouts," said Pickering, "only two girls showed up."

He said his principal told him, "You just gotta stick with it." After a series of announcements, 10 girls finally showed up but only five stayed with the team.

Dixie is in the land of golf in this state and, as such, the Flyers may be the team to watch. Kelsey Vines moved to St. George from Texas last year and many coaches pointed to her as the best player in the state. Eron Deming, an assistant pro at Sun Brook who doubles as the Dixie coach, said Vines can regularly shoot two or three under par. He said his team has three additional "good" players.

State tournaments will be held at Davis Park for 4A and 5A on May 13; and at Rose Park for 1A, 2A and 3A on May 14.

"It will be fun," Bevan said, "to watch them grow."


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