U.S. GIRLS' JUNIOR
Bragging Rights Drive Whiston Sisters
July 20, 2016 | Paramus, N.J.
By Lisa. D. Mickey
Tuesday evening’s playoff, with four players competing for the final spot into match play in the 68th U.S. Girls’ Junior Championship, would ordinarily be a stressful event.
But when the quartet of Nicole Whiston, Youngin Chun, Kelly Su and Jessica Luo headed out to The Ridgewood Country Club’s 15th hole, Whiston was telling herself, “I’ve got this.”
And she did.
Whiston rolled in an 8-foot birdie putt to clinch entry into the Round of 64 in match play. That birdie also improved her playoff record to four out of four attempts in extra holes this year at USGA events.
“Playoffs at USGA events are nothing new for me,” said Whiston, 15, of San Diego. “I had to make birdies in each of the qualifiers to advance into the national championships.”
Whiston’s 2016 playoff run began in the U.S. Women’s Amateur Four-Ball in May at Streamsong Resort in Florida. She and her sister, Waverly, 16, were among four teams competing for three spots in the stroke-play playoff to advance into the 32-team match-play draw.
Waverly made that critical putt, and the sisters went on to defeat second-seeded Sierra Brooks and Kristen Gillman, 1 up, in the first round. The Whiston sisters kept rolling, finally losing 2 and 1 to eventual champions Hailee Cooper and Kaitlyn Papp in the quarterfinals.
Nicole also survived playoffs this year for the last spot in both the Girls’ Junior and Women’s Amateur sectional qualifiers.
In June, she rolled in a birdie to win the Girls’ Junior qualifier playoff at Oak Valley Golf Club in Beaumont, Calif., joining her sister in this week’s championship.
In a Women’s Amateur qualifier at Vista Valley Country Club in Vista, Calif., earlier this month, she again grabbed the last spot with a birdie to advance into the championship. Waverly missed qualifying for the Women’s Amateur with a score of 79.
“I’m really proud of Nicole,” said Waverly, a high school senior who has committed to play college golf at the University of Tennessee. “We practice together all the time, so competing and supporting each other is one and the same.”
That sisterly support was evident on Tuesday when the two played in back-to-back pairings in the final round of stroke play. They could see each other on the course during the second round.
“On the second hole, we were waiting on the tee and Nicole hit a really good shot, so I yelled out, ‘That’s how you do it!’” said Waverly. “I clapped for her. She just walked away because she was totally embarrassed.”
That kind of banter and support is typical for the sisters. After Nicole finished her round Tuesday, she waited for Waverly to complete play, offering support to her big sister. When Nicole went into the playoff Tuesday afternoon, Waverly followed her sister, cheering her on.
“I feel like I’ve watched Waverly since I was little because she was older and she advanced quicker than me,” said Nicole. “Sometimes, I think I’m rooting for her more and she’s trying to beat me.”
“Well, I want Nicole to get better so I will have to get better,” added Waverly. “I feel like it’s a race with my sister and I really like that because it makes me want to try hard and to play better.”
The two jelled well in the Four-Ball and their ability to work together took them farther than even they expected in the championship.
Their constant competition in practice, play, putting contests and even Scrabble drives each of them to ramp up their individual games.
“We’re super competitive and now that we’re not playing together, we’re even more competitive,” said Waverly. “We’re really just trying to beat each other.”
“It’s very healthy competition,” added Nicole.
The two are on the same side of the match-play draw and could potentially play each other, but if that happens, just like Nicole’s propensity for moving into playoffs, it would be more of the same for the siblings. They play each other all the time and regularly split winning and losing.
“It’s all about pride in this family,” said Waverly.
“And winning, and bragging rights,” said Nicole.
“She knows if she wins, she will destroy my pride,” added Waverly, with a laugh.
The sisters are inseparable and even in their Tuesday choice of clothing, one wore a white shirt and blue shorts, while the other wore a blue shirt and white shorts.
For sure, each wishes the best for her sibling, but you can bet that each also has her eyes on the trophy – something that would remind the entire family who the top golfer is, at least for the moment.
Lisa D. Mickey is a Florida-based freelance writer who frequently contributes to USGA websites.