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State Tries to Discourage All but the Best Girl Golfers : High schools: There are no all-girl golf teams in California. A CIF official places the blame on a lack of interest.

TIMES STAFF WRITER

When Alicia Allison stands at the tee these days, she is surrounded by boys. A highly ranked junior golfer, Allison is the only girl on the Foothill High School golf team.

It’s an overwhelmingly male world. Allison derives no advantage by virtue of her gender: She plays from the same tees, faces the same hazards.

For the record:

12:00 AM, Mar. 28, 1991 For the Record
Los Angeles Times Thursday March 28, 1991 Orange County Edition Sports Part C Page 9 Column 5 Sports Desk 1 inches; 31 words Type of Material: Correction
Golf pro--Due to a reporter’s error, the teaching professional of Laguna Hills golfer Eunice Choi was incorrectly identified in an article Wednesday. Choi’s teaching pro is John Hartman of the Newport Beach Golf Course.

Allison, a freshman and Foothill’s No. 1 player, isn’t complaining. She doesn’t mind that the rule book treats her like one of the boys. She has no choice. California is one of the few states that doesn’t provide for all-girls’ golf teams.

Rhode Island, Virginia, South Carolina and Alaska are the others, according to the National Federation of State High School Athletic Assns. in Kansas City, Mo. (Alaska doesn’t have boys’ teams, either).

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The California system discourages participation by girls, particularly the average players. Unlike top golfers such as Allison, Eunice Choi of Laguna Hills and Kellee Booth of Santa Margarita--who might actually benefit from playing longer courses against boys--most girls can’t make the teams.

“It’s very good for someone who is already established,” said Cathy Bright, women’s coach at USC. “But it’s not good for the growth of the sport or for encouraging people to play.”

There are no precise participation figures for California. In the most recent estimate--a 1987-88 survey by the California Interscholastic Federation--338 girls were distributed among more than 514 schools that fielded teams. The survey showed 6,476 boys playing.

This disparity seems unusual for a state that has more golfers than any in the nation, according to the National Golf Foundation. By comparison, Texas has about 17,050 girls in 750 high school girls’ programs and 19,050 boys in 901 programs.

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There are various theories on why California lags behind much of the country in girls’ golf but no definitive explanations. Most often heard: There isn’t enough interest.

Dean Crowley, associate commissioner of the CIF-Southern Section, said periodic efforts by his office to jump-start girls’ golf in the area have failed. In 1988 and ’89, the section tried to set up invitationals for girls, he said, but neither drew more than 20 competitors. No effort was made this season or last.

If the invitational had taken off, Crowley said, it might have been a basis for further expansion of girls’ programs.

The only all-girls’ competition for high school students is the Southern California individual championship, co-sponsored by the CIF and the Southern California Golf Assn. The competition is held in June in conjunction with the Southern California team championship and is open to any female with an index rating of 12.4 or better who attends school in the Southern, San Diego, Los Angeles City or Central sections.

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“We would be very excited about offering girls’ golf,” Crowley said. “But we haven’t found that there is enough interest. If we find there is an interest, we would definitely look at setting a program up.”

But Crowley said state budget cuts that are threatening minor sports in some school districts make this a less-than-ideal time to start new programs. And golf is already far from a priority.

For instance, the Sunset League has no golf budget beyond salary for coaches. Money for equipment, shirts and travel comes from fund-raisers, including a tournament put on annually by an oil company to benefit the league.

Another roadblock to a girls’ program faces most golfers in California: finding an open course. Coaches say courses that donate or discount greens fees would be hard-pressed to come up with extra space for girls.

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“You are asking a golf course to give up a lot of money and they give up a lot as it is,” University Coach Mark Cunningham said.

But those issues remain moot until more girls express an interset in playing the game for their high schools. And that doesn’t seem likely given the level of participation in the Southern California PGA junior program for girls. Although it has produced many college players and its share of Ladies Professional Golf Assn. tour members, the local junior program is also short on females.

Run by the Southern California PGA, the program has 990 boy members and 280 girls. Jane Booth, chairman of the girls’ program, said tournaments usually attract only a fraction of that membership.

“Until we build up the numbers of girls playing junior golf in Southern California, we’re not going to have enough to stock girls’ high school teams,” Booth said.

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Booth said the key to getting more girls involved is exposure. She would like to see the game introduced uniformly in elementary and junior high schools.

Without that, she said, golf will continue to be played mainly by children of aficionados--girls such as Booth’s daughter, Kellee, the fourth-ranked junior in the nation by Golfweek magazine.

Booth and others also said that young girls’ participation in golf might be hindered by thriving youth programs in sports such as soccer, tennis, gymnastics and swimming.

“For a soccer game, you can put 11 girls out there, you don’t have to pay a greens fee for them,” Booth said.

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There are efforts to introduce golf to those who might not be otherwise exposed. The LPGA and the Amateur Athletic Foundation are in the third year of a program, funded in part by the surplus from the 1984 Olympics, that offers free equipment, lessons and greens fees at several locations in Los Angeles and at a girls’ club in Newport Beach.

Tom Sargent, president of the SCPGA junior program and head professional at the Yorba Linda Country Club, distributes equipment donated by members of his country club and the SCPGA to local schools.

Sargent, teaching professional for Allison and Choi, says there won’t be a significant increase in the numbers of girls playing high school golf soon unless changes are made. Sargent favors evening the playing field by using either the women’s tees or an indexing system based on course ratings.

“I would just like to see some way to encourage girls to participate more,” Sargent said.

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Such a system was tried briefly in 1988, when the CIF ruled that girls would play from the women’s tees in team competition. But the rule was rescinded in midseason after a recommendation from the SCGA, which said such a rule was unfair because the girls were playing significantly different courses.

Kevin Heaney, director of rules and competitions for the SCGA, said his organization suggested having one player from each team play the shorter course, but that option was rejected.

Crowley said the section received letters from girls who wanted to play from the same tees as the boys.

“We almost isolated them,” Crowley said. “We made them separate. We made the girls to be different, and that’s not what they wanted. They wanted to be part of the team.”

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