A high school student from Lunenburg, Mass. was denied the trophy despite winning the Central Mass. Division 3 boys’ golf tournament on Tuesday.
Emily Nash, a 16-year-old junior at Lunenburg High School, had been relegated to playing in the boys tournament because Lunenburg High does not have a girls golf team. Nash ended up winning the tournament, and her score helped advance the team to the next level, but the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association (MIAA) rules state that she could neither move forward as an individual nor be awarded the trophy for having won.
Nash told the Worcester Telegram & Gazette on Wednesday that she’s “disappointed” about the decision. She knew that she wouldn’t be able to move forward as an individual player, but did not realize she wouldn’t receive the trophy.
“I was definitely disappointed, but I understand that there are rules in place. I don’t think people expected for this to happen, so they didn’t really know how to react to it. None of us are mad at the MIAA or anything like that, but I was definitely a little bit disappointed,” she said.
The trophy was instead awarded to Nico Ciolino from the Advanced Math & Science Academy Charter School of Marlboro. According to Nash, Ciolino offered to give her the trophy, but she declined.
“I thought it was really nice of him,” she told the Gazette. “And I kind of felt bad for him because I knew he got the trophy, and he felt really awkward about it.”
LPGA golfer Brittany Altomare, also from Massachusetts, threw her support behind Nash on Thursday, telling the Gazette that Nash should have been given the trophy and should be allowed to advance individually.
“She should be awarded medalist honors, and allowed to play in states as I did. Very disappointing,” she said.
Altomare also tweeted about Nash’s story on Thursday, telling her followers, “gender does not matter she played the same tees a win is a win.”
Experts have gone so far as to raise the issue a Title IX violation. Law professor David S. Coleman told NPR that Nash not being awarded the trophy is far from treating boys and girls equally.
“Once [MIAA says], ‘We’re going to let girls participate,’ they’re required by Title IX to treat them equally. And denying someone the trophy and the championship is far from treating them equally.”
The MIAA released a statement on Thursday, explaining why Nash was able to play in the tournament but not move forward.
“To offer an opportunity for team play to all MIAA member school students, female golfers have been welcomed to participate on a boys team in the fall if their school did not sponsor a girls golf team in the spring ... This opportunity has been met positively by many student-athletes and school programs,” the statement reads.
The issue of the trophy, however, was not mentioned.
While Nash said that maybe this will inspire the MIAA to change its rules, she’s still proud of having won the tournament, even if it was not official.
“It’s a pretty big accomplishment,” she told the Gazette.
“I haven’t even won the girls’ districts, so it was nice winning the boys. I wouldn’t say it’s No. 1 because I’ve won a few two-day tournaments, but it’s definitely up there because I’ve never won against all boys before.”