Wehrly: Too many players were too reliant on General Play scores  

Ronan MacNamara

Waterrock Golf Club - Image by Kevin Markham

Ronan MacNamara

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Director of Championships at Golf Ireland Mark Wehrly feels that the decision taken earlier this year to ensure prospective championship entrants have their handicap index based on competitive scores rather than general play will determine the best fields.

Following a lengthy international review in parallel with recommendations from the WHS Handicap Operations Committee, it was decided that in the event that an entrant has more than four General Play scores on their record (in their last 20) and where their General Play scores are significantly better than those in competition, (more than two shots better on average), their entry will be reviewed by the Championship Committee.

The first championship with this method in place is the Centenary West of Ireland Championship where the cut off point for entries fell at -1.5 while the handicap index limit for Wednesday’s qualifier was 0.1.

“It’s not actually the case that we have limited the number of general play scores at Championship golf level,” Wehrly explains.

“The Handicap Operations Committee ,which is a worldwide body which is driven by the R&A and USGA, the consensus has emerged that a well-balanced handicap index, one which includes a mix of general play scores and competition scores and the tolerable variants between general play and competition scores is maximum 2.0.

“If your average general play scores are 2.0 less than your competition scores that’s a tolerable variance. Taking that conclusion we and England Golf have designed our own processes around balance for championships where handicap index is used to determine a player’s place in championships or elite events.

“Our approach in Golf Ireland is if a player’s handicap index is more than 2.0 better in terms of general play scores than competition, we’ll effectively apply an adjustment and the player’s place in the field will be reassessed.”

Wehrly feels that too many players playing in championships last year entered fields because of their reliance on general play scores.

General play scores tend to be better than competition scores and Golf Ireland have taken into consideration World Amateur Golf Ranking (WAGR), previous performances in Championships and handicap index into account when determining championship fields this year.

“Handicapping is not beyond means of balloting for an elite championship so the R&A and USGA got together to establish WAGR as a superior means for handicapping,” says Wehrly. “We use WAGR, previous performances and the handicapping as a balance to that. We are taking what the data says and what the conclusions worldwide say a balanced handicap is.

“There was a sense that too many players playing in championships were too reliant on general play scores to have their handicap at a low level. I’m not saying that was manipulative, it’s just a matter of fact that general play scores tend to be better than competition scores.

“That’s been applied for the West of Ireland and all the Men’s and Women’s events. If somebody gets in on WAGR there is no need to check whether 19 out of 20 scores are general play. If WAGR says they are good enough, then they are. If they were in the top-30 on the Order of Merit last year they are good enough to play in championships.

“It’s only if we have no other criteria to assess their suitability to play in a championship where we look at handicap scores.”

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