Front Range golf tournament experiments with complete digital scoring

Montrose Invite boys golf

(Tom Hoganson)

The Front Range golf tournament that was played at Riverdale Knolls this past Wednesday was yet another sign that high school athletics are moving further into the digital age.

Horizon coach Mitch Dean and Mountain Range coach Tom Norfolk were on the front lines to shift away from paper scorecards and keep scores entirely on the iWanamaker gap.

The hope at the end of the day was that scoring would be more accurate and play, with awards to follow, would speed up. Dean couldn't have been happier with what he saw as the tournament played out.

"It never slowed the course down at all," he said. "As a matter of fact, it was very efficient because kids did not have to stop and record scores, which they always do. They can move immediately away from the green to the next tee box and record the scores while they were walking and talking. That was a huge benefit. The other benefit for us as punishment officials was we had the results at the tournament before the last kids walked off the course."

Typically, adding up scores and sorting through scorecards can keep kids and coaches around a course for an additional half-hour or so. Dean said that wasn't the case with this tournament. Within five minutes after the final group came off the course, the awards ceremony had started.

Fairview's Ryder Heuston won the tournament shooting a 4-under-par 67. Fossil Ridge claimed the team win.

The tournament is part of a larger movement towards golfer-only scoring the CHSAA golf committee hopes will take hold in the state.

"This year is an effort to change the culture in how we score golf in high school to the concept of golfer-only scoring and scoring attest," said CHSAA associate commissioner Tom Robinson, who administers golf. "The CHSAA golf app allows for this important accountability with scoring golf. If, in the future, it can be incorporated into the scoring for all of our high school events, it can create a number of positive outcomes in an effort to have accountability with live, visible scoring, to have players not afraid to share scores with each other, and overall to have a fair and acceptable system for scoring in golf."

Typically, there has been resistance to the idea of moving high school golf scoring completely to iWanamaker. The method is not used in college or at any professional level and making sure that there is someone will to track scores and provide updates has not always gone smoothly.

"We know there are potential issues with this system because not all golfers in the group will have a smart phone, but the hope is to have at least two smart phone devices in each group, and therefore the scoring attest can be done on various devices," Robinson said. "The same scoring and attest can also be done with a paper scorecard, if need be, and all golfers will have one of those."

Dean noted that there was one coach at the tournament that pushed back on the idea, but he and Norfolk explained that they wanted to make this move and see how it played. Coaches made sure each group had a kid with a working smartphone and put someone in charge of posting scores.

The first question that comes to mind is how accurate were the numbers. Scorecards were still kept primarily as a backup and everything was checked at the conclusion of the tournament.

"We had the coaches sit with their players afterwards and validate every single hole," Dean said. "So if there was a discrepancy on the scorecard from what was on the iWanamaker app, they resolved it right there. We also had the official scorer in the group, one of the players who also was there to say, 'This is what you told me, this is what we marked down.' So, and there were no problems, not a single issue with scoring (Wednesday) and everything was very smooth."

This doesn't mean that iWanamaker will be the primary scoring method moving forward, but experimenting with it and having a successful certainly suggests golf could continue to move it that direction.

From the accuracy of the scoring to the instant availability of the results, this Front Range tournament could turn out to be a pivotal point when it comes to scoring and tracking Colorado high school golf tournaments.

"We were really happy was the results," Dean said. "We had 164 players yesterday at this event, which is too many on what the course could realistically accommodate. But we were able to move it right along and keep the scoring up to date. We knew throughout the entire tournament how players were doing and parents could get on there and look as well and see how their son was doing."

And that can be big for a parent who is stuck in the office on a Wednesday and can't be there to watch those birdie putts drop.