Nicole Whiston Earns Inaugural Women's Match Play Championship
In the first-ever SCGA Women’s Match Play Championship, it took extra holes to crown the inaugural champion. Nicole Whiston outlasted Paris Griffith, using incredible ball-striking and strong moxie down the stretch to win in 19 holes.
Whiston, a University of Tennessee commit, ran through the first two rounds of competition, taking out Akemi Khaiat 5&4 before topping Azumi Arai 2&1. In the championship match, Whiston found herself in an afternoon-long battle against Griffith, with the match never swaying more than a 2-hole advantage for either woman.
The eventual champion jumped out to a 1up lead after the first hole and almost never looked back. Whiston birdied No. 3 and 4, but so did a resilient Griffith. After a bogey by Griffith at No. 6, Whiston followed up with her own blunder at No. 7 before atoning with a birdie on No. 9, making the turn 2up.
Whiston held a 1up lead and looked to keep momentum rolling on the par-3 16th hole when things got interesting. After a short tee shot left her 25 feet below the hole with a ridge to climb, Whiston left her first putt 10 feet short and it finally looked as if Griffith would pull even. After Griffith tapped in for par, Whiston confidently drained the uphiller to stay steady and 1up with two holes to play.
On the next hole, the par-4 17th, both players left their approaches short of the green and a few paces into the fridge. Playing first, Griffith asked her caddie to pull the flagstick before canning the 30-foot chip for birdie. As Whiston’s own birdie chip sailed past, Griffith had finally clawed the match back to even.
With the inaugural title waiting in the balance, both players roped tee shots down the 18th fairway. Facing a tucked pin over water, both women laced iron shots over the pin and onto the backside of the green complex. Playing first, Griffith nearly jarred her chip, leaving it a few inches short and setting the stage for Whiston. The rising high school senior ran the winning putt by and forced a sudden death playoff.
On the first hole of the playoff, both players missed the green with Whiston in the bunker and Griffith 20 yards short. Whiston played first, nearly making her bunker shot. Griffith stabbed at her chip, leaving it 10 feet short. She was unable to convert the par putt and Whiston tapped in for the championship.