College golf notebook | Match play format excels in women's championships

EAST MANATEE -- Since 2009, men's golf has used match play to determine its national champion. At The Concession Golf Club this year, the women followed suit.

Without it, fans wouldn't have witnessed the high drama from Tuesday's semifinal between Baylor and Duke, or Wednesday's championship match between Baylor and Stanford.

In the old format, Southern California would have collected its fourth national championship following 72 holes of stroke play.

This past week's format change, though, allowed for Baylor's Lauren Whyte, Duke's Lisa Maguire, Baylor's Hayley Davis and Stanford's Mariah Stackhouse to amplify the emotional roller coaster that is match play golf.

Cliché or not, Baylor found itself on each side of "the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat" between its semifinal and final matches, which each went extra holes.

Whyte and Maguire traded ridiculous up-and-downs before the Whyte eked out a double bogey on the sixth playoff hole to bring the Bears to the national championship match.

Davis and Stackhouse then went on to thrill viewers with spectacular approach shots on the last three holes of regulation in Wednesday's title-deciding match.

Baylor head coach Jay Goble, who was against the format change when it first was announced, changed his tune following Wednesday's action.

"It's an emotional roller coaster out there, but again, I think that to go out there and to fight it out the way you have to do in match play, it shows a lot of guts," Goble said. "I mean, this was a stamina race out here this week, too."

Stanford junior Lauren Kim, a first-team All-American, also enjoyed the format change.

"It brings more of a team aspect," Kim said. "In the stroke play, you are focused on team and also individual. You are competing simultaneously for a national championship. But with the match play the way it is, it's all team."

Crowd pleaser

The first part of NCAA Division I Golf National Championships drew rave reviews, with the women taking center stage before the men's event begins this Friday.

Tennesee head coach Judi Pavon, who guided the Lady Vols to the quarterfinals before falling to Baylor, took to Twitter to say, "Thank you @NCAA @Concessiongolf and @GolfChannel for a wonderful championship! You were right; being on TV was worth the format change!"

Goble said The Concession was a great test of golf.

"Concession doesn't really let you take a breath out there," Goble said. "You gotta give every single shot 100 percent focus and 100 percent belief in what you're doing. (The) Golf course is fun. (The) Golf course is perfect for match play."

In addition, the NCAA was pleased with the attendance at the East Manatee private club.

"It was just a great week, and I thought we had good attendance and great momentum and support from the community to start off the week, and it just built," NCAA associate director Carol Reep said. "Then when you saw the crowds following up the 18th hole today and on to the playoffs, it was just tremendous. Women's college golf hasn't seen anything quite like this. I think with the new format, the excitement and the excellent play of the student-athletes, it just was a perfect match."

Biggest laugh

Earlier this week, Alabama's Emma Talley generated the biggest laugh during her victory speech. After the awards ceremony was moved indoors with inclement weather -- big surprise as bad weather stopped play the first four days -- Talley wrapped her victory speech up by telling the match play participants to "Fight On." That's the USC fight song. Oops! Quickly realizing, Talley recouped to not fight on, but to keep battling.

All that gathered laughed loudly.