21 April 2002 - Rock Hill, SC - It came down to two of the sport's best players in the country dueling it out for the coveted title of South Carolina Match Play Champion. In one of the classic battles of all-time, Greg Ward was almost down for the count with five holes to play, fought hard down the stretch, got into sudden death, and won on the first hole to successfully become the first player in history to win the Match Play back-to-back.
Greg Ward Defends South Carolina Match-Play Championship
Greg Ward playing in the 2000 PPA National Championship.
Ward, who has had some early struggles to begin the 2002 season on the tour, played seven grueling and intense matches, all against some of the strongest competition he has ever faced. Ward faced off against Rick Baird and advanced to take on fellow Atlanta resident, Andy Coradini. After winning that match, he continued his run and avenged his 2000 defeat from Ray Guthrie. Afterwards, he played a great down to the wire match against Bob Haizlip before meeting Jay Klapper in the winner's bracket finals and took care of him to get a shot at the championship.
Mike Brown playing in the 2000 PPA National Championship.
Mike Brown would be his opponent and also ran through some tough matches in his effort. Mike Brown faced off against Tony Jackson, Michael Hitt, and then Bob Haizlip before bowing out to him, dropping him to the loser's bracket. In the loser's bracket, Mike Brown eliminated Gary English, Todd Fowler, and Rick Rybaczek, then had a crack at 2000 champion and knocked him out. Mike Brown then faced Jay Klapper and won that to get a crack at Ward and set up a great finals match.
In that match, Brown won 3 & 2, giving each player one loss, and set up another 36 hole match for the right to claim the title. Brown had it under control, leading 4-up with five to play. Ward, known for playing extremely hard and never known to quit for any reason, lived up to those expectations. Ward won three of the next four holes to go one down with one hole to play. On 18, he aced it and Brown missed his to the left, sending the championship to sudden death. Ward, having honors, hit a great putt and aced the first hole of extra play. Brown followed by lagging and leaving the ball short by six inches. With that, Ward managed to win his second consecutive Match Play title and earned $300 for that win. Brown's second place finish netted him $175.
If Greg Ward's successful defense was not enough, try Tommy Hutchinson becoming the second player (Billy Caudle being the first) to defend his title in the APA Division. For the second straight year, he ran the table without a single loss and claimed the title. He knocked off Chris Hudson in the first round, Steve Helton in the second round, and Keith Waters in the finals of the winner's bracket.
Tommy Hutchinson, 2002 South Carolina APA Match Play Champion.
Hutchinson then had to wait for his opponent in the finals. Again, it would be Helton. After dropping to the loser's bracket, Helton faced Christopher Alley and then Waters and won those matches to get his rematch with the defending champion. Hutchinson got the best of him being down one with one hole left in regulation. He made 18 lipping it in to force sudden death and then won on the second hole of extra play to claim the title.
In all, 27 professionals and 5 amateurs participated in this year's annual event, its fifth in their history. For the entire weekend, the competition was played under extreme humid conditions for April. Temperatures had soared into the upper 80's the entire weekend.
Both tours will be back in action on Saturday, May 4 & 5 in White Lake, NC. Action gets underway at 12:00pm on the 4th. The following day will be the annual Carolinas' Open, which will get started at 9:00am and Newport will be the defender in this event.
Tournament recap and match scores provided by Opie Roberts.
South Carolina 2002 Match-Play Championship
(Rock Hill, SC - 21 April 2002)
Professional Winners Bracket - 36 Hole Matches
Professional Consolation Bracket - 18 Hole Matches
Professional Prize Money
APA Bracket - 36 Hole Matches