Connecticut Native Kelly Whaley Advances at Q School

Kelly Whaley
UNC's Kelly Whaley hits a shot on the 14th tee during the third and final round of the Ruth's Chris Tar Heel Invitational Women's Golf Tournament on Oct 15, 2017, at the UNC Finley GC in Chapel Hill, NC. Photo by Andy Mead/YCJ/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Former Farmington resident Kelly Whaley took her first step toward reaching the former working home of her mother/caddie Suzy on Sunday.

Kelly shot a 1-under-par 71 at the Dinah Shore Tournament Course in Rancho Mirage, Calif., for a 72-hole total of 2-over 290 that tied for 45th and was among 96 players to advance in Qualifying School Stage I for the LPGA and Symetra Tour.

Whaley was tied for 82nd among 151 players who made the 54-hole cut after shooting three 73s at the Dinah Shore Tournament Course and Arnold Palmer Tournament Course in Rancho Mirage and Shadow Ridge Golf Course in nearby Palm Desert, Calif. But she had two birdies and one bogey in carding her low round of the week to advance to Stage II on Oct. 14-17 at the Panther Course and Bobcat Course at Plantation Golf and Country Club in Venice, Fla.

A to-be-determined number of players from Stage II will qualify for the finals at Pinehurst Course No. 6 on Oct. 23-26 and Pinehurst Course No. 9 from Oct. 30-Nov. 2 in Pinehurst, N.C., not far from where Whaley recently graduated from the University of North Carolina, her mother’s alma mater. The 96 players who advanced will play 72 holes in Stage II, and a to-be-determined number of players will qualify for the Q-Series finals. All other players who complete 72 holes will receive Symetra Tour cards for the 2020 season.

Players who advance to the Q-Series will be cut to a to-be-determined number after six rounds, and at least the top 45 and ties for 144 holes receive LPGA Tour cards. Players who complete 108 holes will receive Symetra Tour cards.

Suzy, the first female president of the PGA of America, caddied for her youngest golfing daughter. She played on the LPGA Tour in 1990 and 1993 and became the first woman in 57 years to qualify for a PGA Tour event, the 2003 Greater Hartford Open, when she won the 2002 Connecticut Section PGA Championship.

Kelly, winner of the 2017 Hartford Women’s Open, started in every tournament at UNC for four years, had the two lowest scores in school history and was the only Tar Heel to shoot all three rounds in the 60s in winning the Briar’s Creek Invitational (68-67-69). She also was a three-time winner of the Connecticut Women’s Amateur, a CIAC champion and All-State and Player of the Year in her freshman year at Farmington High School. She then transferred to the International Junior Golf Academy in Hilton Head Island, S.C., where she was a member of the National Honor Society.

Kelly turned pro last month and earned $2,800 in her Symetra Tour debut, which was more than her mother made in 21 events during her two stints on the LPGA Tour.

Amateur Bianca Pagdanganan of The Philippines earned medalist honors when she shot 68 for 275 and a three-stroke victory over Hira Haveed of Perth, Australia, who closed with 69.

Former LPGA Tour player and Yale player and women’s golf coach Heather-Daly Donofrio, who was born in Bridgeport, is the overseer of the qualifying school. She won several tournaments in Connecticut, including the Connecticut Women’s Golf Association Championship, graduated from Yale in 1991 and turned pro in 1993.

Daly-Donofrio played on the Futures (now Symetra) Tour from 1995 to 1997, winning three times. She joined the LPGA Tour in 1998 and won the 2001 First Union Betsy King Classic and 2004 Mitchell Company Tournament of Champions. During that time, she also coached the Yale women’s team from 1997 to 2000 while playing full-time. In 2005, she received the LPGA’s William and Mousie Powell Award, given annually by a vote of LPGA Tour members to a player whose behavior and deeds best exemplifies the spirit, ideals and values of the LPGA. She served as president of the LPGA Tour executive committee in 2005 and 2006 and is now LPGA Chief Communications and Tour Operations Officer.

Solheim Cup Notes

In other LPGA news, Brittany Altomare, Angel Yin and Annie Park secured the last three automatic spots on the 2019 United States Solheim Cup team following the conclusion of the CP Women’s Open at Magna Golf Club in Canada.

Annie Park
Annie Park on the 18th hole during the second round of the Mediheal Championship at Lake Merced Golf Club on April 27, 2018 in Daly City, CA. Photo by Matt Sullivan/Getty Images

Altomare, who closed with a 4-under 68 to tie for 13th, locked up the final roster berth from the Solheim Cup points standings, while Yin and Park booked their places on Team USA via the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings. Altomare and Park will each make their Solheim Cup debuts at Gleneagles in Scotland on Sept. 13-15, while the long-hitting Yin will return for a second time after being selected as a captain’s pick for the 2017 event at Des Moines Golf and Country Club in West Des Moines, Iowa.

The first seven automatic qualifying spots on captain Juli Inkster’s team to face Europe in the biennial match-play competition were secured before the CP Women’s Open by Lexi Thompson, Danielle Kang, Lizette Sales, Marina Alex, Megan Khang and the Korda sisters, Nelly and Jessica.

Inkster will round out her 12-player team by announcing two captain’s picks in New York City on Monday.

“I am really happy with my 10 players right now, the problem is I have more players who deserve to be on the team than I have spots available,” Inkster said. “That is always the most difficult part of being captain, calling those players who played well enough to be going to Scotland but who won’t make the trip. I owe it to the other 10 players to give them the best teammates possible, the ones who will give them the best chance to win. Are my picks going to be perfect? I don’t know.”

Team Europe was finalized two weeks ago after the Aberdeen Standard Investments Ladies Scottish Open in North Berwick, Scotland. Europe will be represented by Carlota Ciganda, Anne van Dam, Caroline Hedwall, Charley Hull, Georgia Hall, Azahara Munoz, Caroline Masson, Anna Nordqvist, Celine Boutier, Jodi Ewart Shadoff, Bronte Law and Suzann Pettersen.

The 16th edition of The Solheim Cup will be played on the world-famous PGA Centenary Course at Gleneagles in Perthshire, Scotland, where Team USA will bid to win the trophy for a third successive time under Inkster’s captaincy. Scotland will host the competition for the first time since Loch Lomond Golf Club in 2000.

In 2015, the Americans staged the biggest come-from-behind victory in the event’s history to beat Europe 14.5-13.5 at Golf Club St. Leon-Rot in Baden-Wurttemberg, Germany. Two years ago, Inkster’s team triumphed by a commanding margin of 16.5-11.5. The U.S. has won 10 of the 15 previous matches, including five of the last seven.

Worked as sports writer for The Hartford Courant for 38 years before retiring in 2008. His major beats at the paper were golf, the Hartford Whalers, University of Connecticut men’s and women’s basketball, Yale football, United States and World Figure Skating Championships and ski columnist. He has covered every PGA Tour stop in Connecticut since 1971, along with 30 Masters, 25 U.S. Opens, four PGA Championships, 12 Deutsche Bank Championships, 15 Westchester (N.Y.) Classics and four Ryder Cups. He has won several Golf Writers Association of America writing awards, including a first place for a feature on John Daly, and was elected to the Connecticut Golf Hall of Fame in 2009. He also worked for the Connecticut Whale hockey team for two years when they were renamed by former Hartford Whalers managing general partner Howard Baldwin, who had become the marketing director of the Hartford Wolf Pack, the top affiliate of the New York Rangers.

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