By GENE PHELPS
Itawamba AHS golf coach Michael Nanney felt like a state champion when he left Amory’s River Birch Country Club last week.
The Mississippi High School Activities Association affirmed Nanney’s confidence Tuesday when it denied an appeal by New Albany High School to overturn the outcome of last week’s Class 4A state golf tournament.
Nanney, whose team won the tournament, said he was sure the MHSAA would make a “fair and correct decision” on the controversy that surrounded one of his player’s scorecards.
IAHS rallied from 10 strokes down last Wednesday to win the state title by two strokes over New Albany, the first-day leader, and the remainder of the 16-team field.
However, New Albany coach Robert Garrett protested, saying IAHS golfer Taylor Boggs turned in an incorrect score and should have been disqualified.
He contended that Boggs, a sophomore, whiffed a shot on the No. 8 hole. The player told tournament officials it was a practice swing and recorded six strokes on the hole, not seven.
“The rules officials went through everything thoroughly,” Nanney said. “They went above and beyond the call of duty to hear all the players involved.
“That’s why I felt good that day, when we left the course, that we were the champions.”
The tournament committee, which included an official from the Mississippi Golf Association, ruled that day in favor of IAHS, saying the weight of the evidence – according to United States Golf Association rule 34 3/4 – did not favor either competitor. In such a case, the rule says, the benefit of doubt is given to the player accused of the infraction.
Nanney said Boggs, 15, “stuck to his guns” throughout the ordeal.
“Taylor’s shown me a lot through all of this,” he said. “I can’t say enough about him being thrown in the middle of all of this and handling it as admirably as he did.
“He’s never had a doubt since he left the eighth hole that day. He knows what he did. I’m proud of him.”
The state title was the second for IAHS in three seasons and the first for Nanney as the coach.
“I’m proud of my guys,” he said. “They worked hard those two days, hung in there, and gave us a chance to be there at the end.”
Once he learned of the MHSAA’s decision, New Albany’s Garrett called Nanney to congratulate him and his team.
“I respect the decision made by the MHSAA,” Garrett said. “I also appreciate the effort that Dr. (Ennis) Proctor and his staff put forth as they investigated the matter.
“The MHSAA is in a tough position with a very hard job as they considered the decision. They were very thorough and gave us a fair opportunity.”
Garrett thanked his school’s principal, Jay Foster, and athletics director, Shane Sanderson, for their support. He also praised the effort of his team’s three seniors – Austin Holt, Tucker Holmes and Sam Cooper.
Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal