HARTFORD, Conn. – The notoriety and accolades just keep coming for Suzy Whaley.
Whaley, a longtime Connecticut resident and the first female elected an officer of the PGA of America, will receive the Metropolitan (N.Y.) Golf Association’s Distinguished Service Award at its annual meeting and dinner on Dec. 4 at Westchester Country Club in Rye, N.Y., the home of a PGA Tour event for several decades.
The organization’s highest honor, created in 1973, is presented annually to a candidate who has contributed “distinguished service to golf and its related activities, consistent with the valued standards and honorable traditions of the game.” Whaley was recognized for her pioneering service as the first woman president of the PGA of America and longtime commitment to growing the game.
“We couldn’t be more thrilled to present Suzy with our Distinguished Service Award this year,” former MGA president and chair of the DSA committee Jeffrey Holzschub said in a statement. “Through her career, Suzy had played, instructed and served the game at the highest level, making her a role model not only for women, but for anyone pursuing a career in golf.”
MGA President Tod Pike said, “We’re looking for people who truly give back to the game and have a history of long and exemplary service. Suzy is such a role model. Not only has she paved the way for women in the game, she’s a great advocate for all golfers of every level and skill.”
Whaley said she was “so honored.”
“The MGA embodies the best values of the game,” she said. “I couldn’t be more proud to share that passion and to receive this award.”
Past DSA recipients have included Joe Dey, Harry Cooper, Robert Trent Jones Sr., P.J. Boatwright, Dave Anderson, Rees Jones, David Fay, Jimmy Roberts, Jim Nantz and Connecticut golf standout Jerry Courville Sr.
Whaley never planned to be a pioneer, trailblazer and/or power broker, but she has become just that on many fronts. It began with playing on the boys’ team in high school because there was no girls team and has progressed to trying to improve the lot of the PGA of America’s 29,000 members, many of them teaching pros like Whaley, and growing the game, especially in certain areas.
“I’m super passionate about inclusion,” Whaley has said. “I want to get more women on golf courses. I want to get more people of color on golf courses, and we’re going to take intentional steps to do that.”
Whaley has also focused on girls golf, and to try to accomplish those major goals, Whaley arises at 5 a.m. every day, which is a lesson in prioritization with the multitude of different tasks that she faces and hats that she wears, whether it’s in PGA business, coaching, mentoring, leading or as a wife/mother.
After playing at the University of North Carolina and on the LPGA Tour in 1990 and 1993, Whaley became the first woman to win a PGA individual professional tournament and the first in 58 years to qualify for a PGA Tour event with a come-from-behind victory in the 2002 Connecticut Section PGA Championship. Whaley played in the 2003 Canon Greater Hartford Open at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, missing the cut, but that hardly mattered because she had taken another major step for women and women’s golf. It even spurred Hall of Famer Annika Sorenstam to accept a sponsors’ invitation to play in the 2003 Colonial Invitational.
Whaley has won dozens of tournaments, including the Connecticut Women’s Open three times, National LPGA Teaching & Club Professional Championship and the LPGA Northeast T&C Section Championship twice. She competed in the 2002 and 2005 PGA Professional Championships and in recent U.S. Golf Association Senior Women’s Open and LPGA Senior Women’s Championship.
In 2014, Whaley became the first woman elected a PGA of America officer, secretary, and has just completed her first year as president. She is currently recognized by Golf for Women as a Top 50 female instructor and is a board member and advisor for numerous organizations, including Golfer Girl Magazine. She is a LPGA Teaching and Club Professional, the PGA Director of Instruction for Suzy Whaley Golf and the Director of Instruction for the Country Club at Mirasol in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. In 2018, she became the ninth woman to be certified as PGA Master Professional, the organization’s highest educational level.
This year Whaley was recognized as one of Golf Magazine’s “Top 100 Teachers in America” after previously receiving awards from the Connecticut Section PGA, LPGA Tour, Golf Digest and U.S. Kids Golf Masters. She is a five-time PGA Junior League Championship finals coach and has instructed more than 300 children to collegiate golf. She also was a volunteer coach for the Quinnipiac University women’s golf team that included her younger daughter, Jennifer. Her older daughter, Kelly, was a four-year standout at her mother’s alma mater and hopes to play on the LPGA Tour.
After being convinced to join the PGA of America by her husband, Bill, Whaley worked five years at Jim Flick Golf Schools before becoming the head pro at Blue Fox Run Golf Course in Avon in 2002. She was a LPGA golf commentator on ESPN from 2004-06 and then began her own instruction and coaching business, Suzy Whaley Golf. A 2016 Greater Syracuse Sports Hall of Fame inductee, she also serves on the ANNIKA Foundation Board and the PGA Tour Policy Board and is an honorary director for the First Tee of Connecticut. In 2017, she was honored with the Betsy Rawls Award from the American Junior Golf Association for her service, dedication and contributions to women’s golf. She was named a 2015 Sports Business Journal “Game Changer,” cited as a woman leader who has had a major impact on sports business, and received the 2015 Margo Dydek Award from the WNBA’s Connecticut Sun for her ability to engage, challenge and inspire while serving as a role model.
Whaley, 52, who now lives in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., has done extensive traveling as PGA president, and when her two-year term ends in 2020, she and the Connecticut Section PGA will host the PGA of America’s annual meeting at the Connecticut Convention Center in Hartford on Oct. 25-30. Approximately 750-800 PGA officers, board members, delegates, staff and special guests are expected to attend, with Marriott Hartford Downtown designated as the event’s official hotel.
“It is exciting to see a city growing in its revitalization like Hartford host the PGA annual meeting in 2020,” Whaley said. “We look forward to our PGA membership enjoying everything that Hartford has to offer.”
The Whaleys are both PGA members, and she met him through golf. Bill is the National Director of Golf for the PGA Tour Properties Division.