Junior Ryder play may cost star golfer

Northeast's Connelly would miss state tourney

High Schools

July 12, 2002|By Alex Kopicki | Alex Kopicki,SUN STAFF

The defending state champion and favorite in the high school girls District V golf tournament may be excluded this year because of a scheduling conflict.

Stephanie Connelly will compete in the Junior Ryder Cup tournament in Dublin, Ireland, Sept. 21-30, a time that coincides with the district tournament Sept. 24.

The Northeast High School sophomore first took her case to the Maryland Athletic Association, which concluded that despite the exceptional circumstances, she would not be allowed to participate at the district level. An appeal is pending.

Northeast principal George Kispert wrote to Anne Arundel County's interim superintendent, Kenneth Lawson, requesting that Connelly not be "denied the opportunity to play in this year's state championship because of her involvement representing her country in the Ryder Cup."

He has also written a letter to the state superintendent, Dr. Nancy Grasmick.

Kispert believes that the scheduling dilemma could be solved without compromising the integrity of the competition.

He and Connelly have proposed she post a score at Aberdeen's Ruggles Golf Course either a week before or after she participates in the Ryder Cup. Another idea was to allow her to compete in a different district tournament since some districts hold their tournaments a week later.

"After winning states last year, it has become a goal for me to win states all four years," Connelly said. "I will definitely be focused on the Ryder Cup, but I'm also playing in high school and I want the opportunity to help my team.

"I'm not asking for a free ticket, but I feel that I should at least have the chance to qualify," she said.

Last year, Connelly won three of the five PGA Junior Series tournaments she entered. That qualified her for last year's Junior Ryder Cup tournament, which was canceled because of the events of Sept. 11. Having gone through the qualifying process, she was made eligible for the 2002 tournament.

She broke two state records last year (held for 18 years by Clare Dolan). Connelly's record-breaking first-day 73 and a two-day, 6-over-par 148 came in the state championship. She posted her best overall round at the Penn State Blue Course when she shot a 69.

The Sun named the freshman an Athlete of the Week last fall for her record-breaking state-tournament play and for winning the Anne Arundel co-ed championship.

The first request by Kispert was considered by Ned Sparks, executive director of the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association. Sparks, whose views were shared by other members of the association, said, "No matter what the sport is, you have to qualify through the regular qualifying procedures.

"If Stephanie would be allowed to compete in another district, then that would knock someone else out," said Sparks. "In terms of her posting a score at another time, there could be a lot of different factors involved. It could be raining and she would be playing alone."

Sparks noted that Connelly would likely win the district tournament if she were to play, qualifying her for the state tournament. "But you have to be fair to everyone," he said.

Said Connelly, "I understand about upholding the fairness. But if it was anyone else in the situation, I'd be all for it."

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