As the high school golf season gets under way statewide this week, Northeast coach Brandt Schanberger knows he has two of Maryland's top golfers in sophomore Stephanie Connelly and senior Brian Carneal. He just doesn't know if he'll be able to use both of them when the state tournament starts in less than two months.
Unless the Maryland Public Secondary Schools Athletic Association overturns a decision it made earlier this summer, Connelly, the defending girls state 4A-3A champion, won't be allowed to qualify for the Oct. 21-22 state tournament because she'll be competing at the Junior Ryder Cup in Ireland the same week as the District V championships. MPSSAA rules require the state tournament field to be selected based on scores from Maryland's five district tournaments, meaning any golfers who miss districts won't be eligible for states.
Connelly and Northeast principal George Kispert have filed an appeal in hopes of getting Connelly an exemption for this year. A final decision is expected to be made Friday in a meeting between between state schools Superintendent Nancy S. Grasmick and an advisory committee of selected county superintendents.
"I have no idea how it's going to turn out. It's very frustrating," said Schanberger, whose Eagles will try to defend the Anne Arundel County tournament championship they won last year. "The Ryder Cup girls from other states are all getting exemptions, so it's just common sense that we'd get one. She [Connelly] deserves a chance to play."
Regardless of whether she'll be able to defend her title in October, Connelly is still poised to lead the Eagles to another strong season. She was the top public school finisher - male or female - at last month's Anne Arundel Fall Golf Preview tournament, taking second place overall with a two-day 155.
Three strokes behind Connelly was Carneal, who at last year's state championships barely missed an 8-foot putt that would have forced a playoff for the boys individual title. He should challenge for the title again this year.
Severna Park has Anne Arundel County's deepest team this year, while Arundel returns one of the area's top individual performers in Brian Scott, a senior who led briefly on the second day of last year's state tournament. A rising South River team could also become a factor as the season progresses.
In Carroll County, Ray Sheedy of Francis Scott Key and Nick DeSimone of Liberty should both emerge as district and state title contenders. Sheedy was the Titleist Junior Tour's Mid-Atlantic Player of the Year this summer, but DeSimone beat him by a stroke at the tour's championship tournament Aug. 19 in Williamsburg, Va.
C.M. Wright looks strong again in Harford County after a fourth-place finish at last year's 4A-3A state tournament, while Mt. Hebron (third at last year's states) should be the best of the club-status Howard County teams.
Qualifiers from Anne Arundel, Carroll, Harford and Howard counties will meet at Ruggles Golf Club near Aberdeen for the Sept. 24 District V tournament.
The race for the Baltimore County and District VI titles will again likely come down to Pikesville and Dulaney. The two schools have combined to win three state titles in the past two years, with the Panthers taking the last two 2A-1A crowns and the Lions winning the 2000 4A-3A championship.
Pikesville, which swept the county, district and state tournaments (2A-1A) for the first time last year, is without standout senior Joey Eaton, who's out for at least two more weeks while he recovers from a broken wrist and broken kneecap.
Senior Kevin Rosenberg returns as coach Jerry Miller's No. 1 player, and he should get plenty of help from highly touted freshman Michelle Grilli.
Pikesville took a big step toward defending its county title yesterday, beating Dulaney, 12 1/2 -5 1/2 , in a showdown at Longview in Timonium.
Baltimore County will hold its Sept. 26 championship at Rocky Point, with the District VI tournament taking place Oct. 9 at Longview.