Last week marked the beginning of fall practices for Michigan high school sports and Alpena's teams have been hard at work conditioning and preparing for their first contests later this month.
The Alpena girls golf team is not among them.
Alpena's girls golf team will not have a season this fall due to lack of participation, marking a year since Alpena has fielded a golf team. Alpena did not field a boys golf team this spring because the team didn't have a coach and didn't have enough golfers to field a team.
News File Photo
Alpena’s Maggie Skiba putts during a girls golf tournament at Alpena Golf Club. Since Skiba’s graduation in 2012, the Alpena girls golf program has struggled with participation numbers and fielded a seven-member team in 2012. This fall Alpena will not field a girls golf team as only a few girls were expected to participate.
"We're kind of in a lull right now in the area and we've having the same problems across the board with participation in golf," Alpena Athletic Director Tim Wedge said. "Right now we don't have enough participation to field a team."
Alpena's golf program was one of several athletic programs that became self-funded in 2010 due to budget cuts. Since then, mixed results with fundraising efforts and low participation numbers have created a problem that doesn't seem to be going away.
"I hope that someone will step up and try to get it going again next year," former Alpena girls golf coach Vicky Lindsay said. "But I know that fundraising takes a lot of time and coaching takes a lot of time."
"I hope that someone will step up and try to get it going again next year. But I know that fundraising takes a lot of time and coaching takes a lot of time."
- former Alpena girls golf coach Vicky Lindsay
Originally, Linsday planned to coach the girls golf team this year before stepping down after nearly a dozen seasons, but the team was already facing some difficulties. Only a few girls were expected to participate and with less money available for tournaments, the Wildcats would've only competed a handful of times and had already opted out of competing in the regional tournament.
"It left me with no choice. We didn't have enough girls to field a team," Linsday said of canceling the season.
Alpena isn't the only one facing low participation numbers for golf. The Big North Conference's three other golf schools-Traverse City West, Traverse City Central and Petoskey-will essentially be competing as independents this season and are facing participation issues of their own.
As recently as three years ago, the girls team had solid numbers. Alpena had 10 members of the girls golf team in 2010 and 12 in 2011. By last season however, six seniors who were four-year golfers had graduated, including two-time state qualifier Maggie Skiba. Alpena had just a seven-member team in 2012.
Lindsay sent out a dozen letters to interested girls this spring, but there wasn't enough interest from that group to field a competitive team and only four girls were expected to participate.
Adding to low participation numbers, the girls team has struggled to come up with enough money to even have a season-a tab that usually runs between $2,500-$3,000. For the last two years, the golf program held a putt-putt golf fundraiser and had mixed results. Prior to that, the girls team sent a brochure to members of the community for several years asking for donations among other fundraisers.
Lindsay donated her coaching salary back to the program for several years as well.
"It takes a lot of work when you have a small team numbers-wise," Lindsay said.
The Alpena boys team has had solid numbers as well the last few years and fielded varsity and JV squads in 2012. But the program cycled through three coaches in three years, including Lindsay in 2012 and had a numbers crunch this spring after graduating several veteran golfers and didn't field a team.
Wedge said if there is enough participation, money can be raised and a coach can be found, then Alpena will field a boys golf team in the spring of 2014.
Realistically though Wedge is hopeful that an influx of youth golfers can rejuventate the program in the next several years.
"I keep seeing more and more young people golfing. I'm hoping that in two to three years, if several of them come in as freshmen (and keep playing), then we can have teams," Wedge said.
James Andersen can be reached via email at email@example.com or by phone at 358-5694. Follow James on Twitter @ja_alpenanews.