HARTFORD, Conn. – The “firsts” just keep on coming for Suzy Whaley.
In 2002, Whaley became the first woman since Babe Zaharias 52 years earlier in the Los Angeles Open to qualify for a PGA Tour. Whaley rallied from three strokes behind on the back nine to win the Connecticut Section PGA Championship and earn a spot in the 2003 Greater Hartford Open. World Golf Hall of Famer Annika Sorenstam and Michelle Wie are the only other women to play in a PGA Tour event, but they received a sponsors’ exemption.
The Section Championship win led to Whaley being the first – and still only – female to play in the Julius Boros Challenge Cup Matches, pitting the top 14 Section players and 14 Connecticut State Golf Association players. Then in her second appearance this year, Whaley and Section president Ian Marshall were captain Ralph Salito’s picks and combined to earn a team-leading six of nine points in a 36.5-26.5 loss.
Four years ago, Whaley became the first female and first member of the Connecticut Section PGA to be elected an official in the PGA of America, and it came on the first ballot, a rarity. She will be inducted as president on Nov. 9 in Palm Springs, Calif., and be the host for the organization’s annual meeting in 2020 in Hartford.
Last year, Whaley received a sponsors’ exemption to play in the first Senior LPGA Championship at the French Lick Resort in French Lick, Ind. She tied for 55th while competing against a field that included World Golf Hall of Fame members Laura Davies, Patty Sheehan, Hollis Stacy, Betsy King and Pat Bradley, along with 19 other LPGA Tour major winners. Trish Johnson won the $90,000 first prize.
Then on Tuesday, Whaley added to her notable credentials, shooting a 2-over-par 73 to tie for second in a U.S. Senior Women’s Open qualifier at the Olympic Club in San Francisco and gain entry into the first national championship at Chicago Golf Club on July 12-15.
“I started in the fog and ended on a windy day,” said Whaley, who played on the LPGA Tour in 1990 and 1993. “There was about 45 minutes of sunshine, but my game was solid. I continue to work hard and am really excited to play in the very first USGA Senior Women’s Open.”
Whaley, 51, qualified after watching older daughter Kelly shoot a 2-under 68 to take the first-round lead in the Hartford Women’s Open at Goodwin Park Golf Course in Hartford on Saturday. She was on a 6 a.m. flight to San Francisco on Sunday to play a practice round at the Olympic Club, forcing her to miss Kelly shooting a course-record, 5-under 65 Keney Park Golf Course in Hartford in recording a five-stroke victory over amateur Linda Wang.
After qualifying for the Senior Women’s Open, Whaley headed for PGA of America meetings outside San Francisco and then will return to Connecticut for next week’s Travelers Championship at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, where she and her husband, Bill, live.
Whaley is a LPGA Teaching and Club Professional member who has received numerous teaching awards and is currently recognized by Golf for Women as a top 50 female instructor. The PGA/LPGA Director of Instruction at Suzy Whaley Golf in Cromwell is also a board member and advisor for several organizations, including Golfer Girl Magazine.
Dana Dormann of Pleasanton, Calif., shot 68 to earn medalist honors in the U.S. Senior Women’s Open qualifier, and the other qualifiers were Kathryn Imrie (73) and amateurs Tina Barker (77) and Julie Wirth (78).