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NCAA golf: Questions of sexism, accountability linger after ‘unplayable’ hole

(Photo by Preston Mack/NCAA Photos via Getty Images)

Emory women’s golf coach Katie Futcher is still in shock at what unfolded last week at the NCAA Division III women’s golf championship at Mission Inn and Resort’s El Campeon Course in Howey-in-the-Hills, Florida.

“I’ve been around golf my entire life. I played amateur golf, played collegiate golf, played professional golf for nine years on the tour. And I have never heard of or seen a round being canceled because of a poor pin location,” Futcher, who just announced her retirement, told Just Women’s Sports.

A viral video of the third round of competition shows multiple competitors attempting to putt the ball into the sixth hole — only to have it roll back to their feet. After play was paused during the afternoon session due to lightning, the NCAA Division III women’s golf committee decided to scrap all scores from round three, citing the “unplayable” pin at hole six.

“Throughout Round 3 on Thursday, and despite efforts to improve conditions, it became apparent that the pin placement on hole No. 6 … was unplayable,” the committee said in statement provided to GolfChannel.com. “After play was suspended due to lightning late Thursday afternoon, the committee analyzed numerous different options on how to complete the tournament in the time allotted.”

George Fox University went on to win the NCAA team title, while Annie Mascot of Washington University-St. Louis won the individual championship.

Still, the NCAA committee’s decision to cancel the third round — coupled with the pin placement itself — has resulted in social media outrage, questions of sexism and scrutiny over how the championship was organized.

In golf, weather delays are common. But when a round is paused and can’t be finished the same day, it is typically completed early the next morning. That very thing happened during the second round of the D3 women’s golf championship. When play was halted during the second round on Wednesday afternoon, players who hadn’t finished resumed play first thing Thursday morning — before beginning Round 3. Futcher says the NCAA committee’s decision to cancel Round 3 after more than 60 percent of competitors had finished in order to prioritize the start of Round 4 is “unheard of.”

While last week’s NCAA women’s golf championship was held at Mission Inn and Resort’s El Campeon Course, it was NCAA rules officials — not the club — who were responsible for setting the course.

“The pin location was absolutely terrible. It should have never happened,” Futcher said. Still, she was shocked when the round was cancelled midway through.

“The thing about golf is, everybody is playing the same pin locations the entire day. Everybody is playing the same golf course,” she explained. “There is an advantage to be playing in the morning, because the green is maybe a little bit more moist. … But the players that teed off in the morning earned the right to have those better conditions because they played better the first few days.”

Jodie Burton, the head coach of the Claremont Mudd Scripps team that finished third, agrees that the pin placement was bad and that teams should have played through it, but appreciated that the head rules official apologized for the mistake.

“He owned the mistake. But it was just a mistake,” Burton said.

Futcher hopes the controversy leads to more accountability and oversight. “I’m sure the rules officials are all terrific, wonderful people. But they are hosting a national championship under the banner of the NCAA, and we have pins, not just on (hole six), that were placed in asinine positions. And I just don’t understand how that could happen.”

The NCAA’s treatment of women’s championships has been under a microscope since 2021, when massive inequities were exposed at that year’s men’s and women’s Division I basketball championships.

Burton doesn’t think sexism played a role here, though. “I don’t what this men’s committee would have come up with, but I don’t think it has anything to do with (sexism) at all. This is the women’s golf championship, and it’s usually wonderful and it still was a wonderful experience,” she said.

Futcher, however, has a hard time imagining that the men’s D3 championship would have featured such terrible pin locations or that the third round would have been handled in the same way. “I find it hard to believe the men would cancel the round or not try to find other solutions,” she said.

For Christel Boeljon, Futcher’s wife and assistant coach, what happened at this year’s national championship is indicative of a larger attitude problem in D3 women’s golf.

“I think that the mentality of Division III women’s golf is almost dumbed down,” Boeljon said. “And I think that’s a shame because all of these girls can seriously play and they work very hard at it.”

Boeljon pointed to the fact that while it is common for athletes in D1 and D2 men’s and women’s golf — and D3 men’s golf — to walk 36 holes in one day, that is a much harder pitch to make for a D3 women’s competition.

While Emory, the defending champion, played a great third round and was arguably put at a disadvantage by the decision to cancel, Futcher believes she would feel just as strongly even if her team hadn’t performed as well in the cancelled round. Emory went on to finish fifth overall.

“I want to state that I could not be more pleased for Mary Jo at George Fox,” she said. “Her team played phenomenal for the three rounds that counted. And she and her team deserve everything that they won and earned this week. … But (the drama) takes away from the team that won.”

She added: “I think the rules officials should be held accountable for the mistake. I think the NCAA committee should be held accountable for their mistake in not overseeing the rules official in terms of the pin placement. I think when you cancel the round, no one gets held accountable.”

Barcelona to Face Lyon in Champions League Rematch This Weekend

UEFA Women's Champions League Final"Barcelona FC - Olympique Lyonnais"
Saturday's game will be the third UWCL final meeting for Barcelona and Lyon, having previously gone up against each other in 2019 and 2022. (ANP via Getty Images)

The UEFA Women's Champions League final kicks off in Bilbao on Saturday, with a couple of familiar foes set to face off for the trophy.

Olympique Lyonnais Féminin, making its 11th final appearance since 2010, will go head to head with a Barcelona side making its fourth final appearance in a row.

This will be the third time these two teams meet in the UWCL title game, having previously appeared in the 2019 and 2022 finals. Lyon won both of those prior games against Barcelona, alongside a total of eight Champions League trophies. That’s double that of any other club, with Eintracht Frankfurt coming in a distant second with four. 

Should Barcelona win, this would be the team's third title — breaking a tie for the third in the UWCL total titles race. 

But as these teams return to the UWCL final, it also marks the end of an era for both clubs. The game will be the last for both club managers, as Barcelona’s Jonatan Giráldez and Lyon’s Sonia Bompastor depart for new jobs after the season's end.

Giráldez is set to leave for the NWSL's Washington Spirit, while Bompastor will take over for incoming USWNT coach Emma Hayes at Chelsea. Both coaches have earned one UWCL trophy during their tenures, while Bompastor also brought two Champions League trophies to Lyon as a player. She was the first coach to win a UWCL trophy as both a coach and player.

This season, Barcelona is looking for its first quadruple, having won a fifth Liga F title alongside the Copa de La Reina, and the Spanish Supercopa. 

"We hope he can go out with the four trophies because we know how competitive and ambitious he is," Barcelona midfielder Patri Guijarro told ESPN. "It has been a winning era with him in charge and for him to go out with all four trophies would be historic and incredible."

But Lyon's Damaris Egurrola is excited about her team's chances of overcoming Barcelona once again — and to do it in front of family and friends.

"Lyon have something special," she told Forbes ahead of the weekend's final. "We have a great team and we have the players with enough talent to win any match."

The game will be a homecoming for Egurrola, who began her professional career with Athletic Bilbao.

"I’ve been thinking of this day and night," she said. "I’ve been dreaming of playing this match. Having the opportunity to play in San Mames is amazing. This is where it all started for me."

The UEFA Women's Champions League final kicks off Saturday, May 25th at 12 PM ET and is free to stream on DAZN.

World No. 1 Iga Swiatek Headlines a Stacked 2024 French Open

Iga Swiatek serves against Coco Gauff during the group stage of the 2023 WTA Finals in Cancun, Mexico
Iga Swiatek serves against Coco Gauff during the group stage of the 2023 WTA Finals in Cancun, Mexico. (Robert Prange/Getty Images)

The 2024 French Open starts on Sunday, with a match schedule that promises to wrap the short clay court season up in style.

Looking for her fourth title at the major is three-time Roland Garros champion and World No. 1 Iga Swiatek, considered the favorite to win the whole Slam. Three of her four major titles have come at the French tournament. 

Swiatek's career record at the French Open is a dominating 28-2, and she's currently on a 16-game winning streak fueled by victories at tune-up tournaments in Madrid and Rome.

But that doesn't mean she won't face some serious challengers along the way. Get to know some of the Polish tennis champ's strongest competitors.

Aryna Sabalenka

Sabalenka is ranked No. 2 in the world and faced Swiatek in the finals at both Madrid and Rome. She lost in three sets in Madrid, which included a close third-set tiebreak, before losing in straight sets at the Italian Open. 

She enters the French Open having won the Australian Open in January, successfully defending her title in the first Slam of the season. At last year’s French Open, Sabalenka reached the semifinals — a career best — before being ousted by Karolina Muchová in three sets.

Season record: 25-7

Coco Gauff

Currently sitting at No. 3 in the world, the highest-ranked American on the schedule is none other than Coco Gauff. Gauff won her first major at the US Open last year, and reached the semifinals of this year’s Australian Open. She faced Swiatek in the semifinals of the Italian Open last week, losing in straight sets. 

But her first major final came at the French Open in 2022, before being ousted by Swiatek in the quarterfinals at last year’s French Open. The two are on a crash course for a meeting before the finals, as Gauff anchors the other quadrant on Swiatek’s side of the draw, should they both advance deep into the competition.

Season record: 25-8

Chicago Sky Upset New York to End Liberty’s Unbeaten Streak

chicago sky's angel reese on the court against new york liberty
Angel Reese registered a near double-double against a strong Liberty side. (Evan Yu/NBAE via Getty Images)

The Liberty’s unbeaten streak came to an end on Thursday as Angel Reese and the Chicago Sky got the upset win over New York with a final score of 90-81. 

Angel Reese stood out with a near double-double, registering 13 points and nine rebounds. She’s currently the only rookie this season to exceed 10 points in her first three games, and the first player in Sky history to begin their career with three consecutive double-digit scoring games, per ESPN Stats & Info.

The outcome may not have come as a surprise to Liberty stars Breanna Stewart and Jonquel Jones, who sung Reese’s praises ahead of the game.

"She’s a workhorse," Stewart told The Post. "She doesn’t stop. She’s tough, she’s strong, she’s tough to box out and good at cleaning up for her team offensively and defensively."

"I feel like she’s an energizer bunny," Jones added. "She doesn’t stop moving, she doesn’t stop crashing the boards. Just someone that is gonna be relentless in her approach to getting to the glass and playing tough."

It was the first time Chicago has met New York this season. The game was especially meaningful for new Chicago head coach Teresa Weatherspoon, who led the Liberty for seven years as a player and joined the team's Ring of Honor in 2011.

"This place means a lot to me... I played in that jersey, I adored that jersey, I adored every player that I had an opportunity to play with. The love that I received even today was overwhelming," Weatherspoon reflected after the game.

Following the win, Sky guard Dana Evans had some kind words for her coach.

"I mean, it's just special. She's special," Evans said. "She just breeds confidence in each and every one of us. We love her. We just wanted to go so hard and play hard for her, and I feel like this one was really for her. We really wanted this for her more than anything."

Thursday's victory brings Chicago's record to 2-1, a somewhat unlikely feat given that their offseason featured starter Kahleah Copper getting traded to Phoenix. The Connecticut Sun are now the only undefeated team left in the league this season, and will formidable foes for the Sky as they take their winning streak on the road to Chicago this weekend.

New USWNT Coach Emma Hayes Embracing the Challenge

United States Women's Head Coach Emma Hayes
The ex-Chelsea skipper has officially arrived in the US — now it's time to get down to business. (USSF/Getty Images for USSF)

Emma Hayes has officially begun her tenure as USWNT manager ahead of the team’s June friendlies.

Hayes made the rounds on Thursday, appearing on the Today Show and speaking with select media about her goals and underlying principles with the team. It’s a quick turnaround for the decorated coach, who just won the WSL with Chelsea last weekend.

One thing that she won’t do, however, is shy away from the high expectations that come with managing the US. The squad is looking to reinstate its winning reputation at the Paris Olympics this summer following a disappointing World Cup in 2023. 

"I know the challenge ahead of me. There is no denying there is a gap between the US and the rest of the world," she told ESPN. "We have to acknowledge that winning at the highest level isn't what it was 10 years ago. It's a completely different landscape. And my focus is going to be on getting the performances required to play at a high level against the very best nations in the world."

While Hayes was formally hired six months ago to lead the USWNT, her deal stipulated that she remain with Chelsea through the conclusion of their season. In her stead, Twila Kilgore has led the team, with the coach "drip feeding subliminal messages" to the roster on Hayes’s behalf.

"It's a bit ass-upwards," Hayes joked to reporters. "I know about the staff, and the team, and the structure behind it. We got all of that. Now it's time, I need to be with the team."

With Olympics now just two months away, Hayes dropped hints this week regarding her thought process behind building the roster, saying there’s still time for players to make their case.

"You can't go to an Olympics with a completely inexperienced squad. We need our experienced players, but getting that composition right, that's my job between now and June 16th," she said on the Today Show.

"What I can say from my time [in the US] is, I've always loved the attitude towards performance and the expectation to give everything you've got," she later affirmed to reporters.

And as for winning gold?

"I'm never gonna tell anyone to not dream about winning," she added. "But… we have to go step by step, and focus on all the little processes that need to happen so we can perform at our best level.

"I will give it absolutely everything I've got to make sure I uphold the traditions of this team."

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