It was surprising how nonchalantly Marion school board approved cutting a high school sport Monday night. It seems like cutting golf was the right decision, however. I say this despite golf being the only sport I played all four years of high school (although you wouldn’t guess it if you saw me swing a club today).
On a per-athlete basis, it has to be the most expensive sport for the district, especially with participation declining. It takes two coaches for a handful of athletes, because the golfers get so spread out on a course. And then there are fees paid to Marion Country Club for the team to practice and compete.
Superintendent Lee Leiker said it well. If enrollment is going to decrease to the size of a 2A school — which seems likely in the next few years — Marion needs to be ready to have staffing and programs that match that size. One appropriate place to cut is sports, and golf had the least participation of spring sports.
Other sports, like football and track, have higher total expenses, but reach more students. Benefit to students should be the main criterion for judging school expenses. Other sports also attract more community involvement.
Golf is one of the few sports that students can participate in without significant organization. Runners can run, whenever and wherever, and golfers can hit the links whenever they can get a tee time. But it is tough to find 22 people for a pickup football game, or 18 people for impromptu softball.
The cut isn’t set in stone. Leiker said the district could seek to share a team with Peabody-Burns if there is interest and the districts could reach an agreement. Peabody-Burns currently practices at a Newton golf course.
I hope the cut doesn’t mean the end of the Marion County Invitational. The invitational has been a unique feature on the sports landscape, a golf tournament as much about endurance — golfers play 18 holes in Marion and 18 in Hillsboro in a single day — as pure skill. That is a lot of walking, and a lot of swings of a golf club. Even the professionals don’t play 36 holes in a day, and they have caddies to carry their clubs.
— ADAM STEWART