P.E.I. girls want to play 18 holes in school golf tourneys, just as boys do

Two junior high golfers in Montague are pushing the P.E.I. School Athletic Association to change one of its rules, all in the name of gender equality.  

Sisters Brayah and Lexie MacDonald are both members of Montague Intermediate’s school golf team. 

When they joined the team last year, they say they were shocked to learn  that in provincial school competitions, female golfers play just nine holes, while males play the full 18. 

“I’d say they think that girls can’t play 18 because it’s too much for them, and that they’re not necessarily good enough.  But that’s not the case,” said Brayah, a Grade 8 student. “Why is it not fair and equal for everyone?”

“Since I’ve been playing, I’ve never really played just nine holes. I’ve always played 18 because that’s what the course is,” added Lexie, who is in Grade 9. “It’s just frustrating, that just because I’m not a guy, I can’t play 18 holes.”

Lexie and Brayah MacDonald practice their chipping outside Montague Intermediate. The sisters say they’re used to playing the full 18 holes, and want the chance to do it in school competitions. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

According to the sisters, they shared their concerns with the athletic association last year, and asked for the rule to be changed. 

They raised the issue with the association again this year, but were still left playing nine holes in the provincial championship earlier this month. 

“To me, it’s not that big a deal to change it,” said Lexie. “Just say, ‘Okay, girls, you’re playing 18.'”

Association considering changes 

According to the PEISAA, intermediate and high school girls have been playing only nine holes since golf became a school sport two decades ago. 

“We aren’t for certain what went into the decision in 2002,” said Phil Bridges, the association’s school sport co-ordinator, in an email to CBC.  

Regardless, Bridges said that until last year, he hadn’t heard any concerns. 

Now that the issue’s been brought forward, he said the association is taking time to consider whether a change makes sense. 

“While the PEISAA has never had a request from a member school to change the competition schedule for girls’ golf, it is a discussion that some parents have put forward,” said Bridges. “PEISAA did have its golf commissioner speak to competitors and member schools about the idea to change the girls’ competition.”

Alison Griffin, executive director of the P.E.I. Golf Association, worries the PEISAA’s competition format may send the wrong message. (Steve Bruce/CBC)

It’s a discussion the executive director of the P.E.I. Golf Association welcomes. 

Alison Griffin says there have been great strides to achieve more gender equality in golf, and to get more females involved and competing at a high level. 

I think golf has grown, and we’ve developed some really strong female athletes as well as male athletes here on the Island.– Alison Griffin, P.E.I. Golf Association

She worries the fact that girls play half as many holes as the boys in Island school competitions sends the wrong message. 

“I don’t think it’s a positive one,” said Griffin, who is the first woman to lead a provincial golf association in Canada.

“I think we want to see the girls playing the same amount of holes as the boys. Certainly from the PEIGA’s perspective anyway, we think that’s important for equity….I think golf has grown, and we’ve developed some really strong female athletes as well as male athletes here on the Island. So maybe there is room for change there.”

Two divisions? 

The MacDonald sisters suggest instead of gender determining how many holes golfers play in school competitions, it should be based on ability. 

Phil Bridges says the P.E.I. School Athletic Association is considering adding divisions to its golf competitions. (Julien Lecacheur/Radio Canada)

“I think there should be a double A division, and an A,” said Brayah. “The people in A can play nine holes and sign up for that. And the people that want to play double A can play 18.”

Bridges said the PEISAA is considering adding divisions to its golf competitions, though he added, “there is no timeline at this for when potential changes may be made to golf.”

He said the priority this year has been to find “safe ways to offer school sports during a global pandemic.”

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