GHO Marks End of a Whirlwind Ride for Whaley
'I'm sorry I'm late,' Whaley says. 'My children have been sick for a week and I just can't seem to get them past it.'
For the next several minutes, Whaley is all smiles as she patiently answers questions about Thursday's Greater Hartford Open, where she qualified for a spot by winning the Connecticut PGA section title last fall.
Life hasn't been the same for Whaley, who will play in a PGA Tour event two months after Annika Sorenstam competed with the men in the Colonial.
Whaley needed a publicist to handle the barrage of media requests, stepped up her competitive schedule, and increased her physical workouts while continuing to teach at Blue Fox Run Golf Course.
'I feel like I'm running a race, a marathon,' the mother of two young girls said. 'I'm in better shape than I was in than when I was 16. I didn't say I wear the same size, but I'm in better shape.'
Despite her hectic schedule, which she says is 'part of the deal,' Whaley is having fun. Phil Mickelson may be the two-time defending champion of the GHO, but Whaley has grabbed her share of the headlines.
Her face is everywhere -- on billboards and in newspaper ads. She's on local talk radio, promoting her charities and the tournament.
Buy an advance 'Suzy' ticket and $10 goes to junior golf. All of the proceeds from $3 'Fore Suzy' buttons, which will be sold on the course this week, go to the March of Dimes.
Whaley said it was important to make the most of her opportunity and to make it count for something positive.
'Not only am I out there hopefully showing some young people what they can do with their lives and showing my girls that something that I never dreamed possible is, but I get to say look what we did for some babies to have a healthy start,' Whaley said. 'And look what we did for some kids to get golf growing.'
Tournament officials are hoping Whaley does for the GHO what Sorenstam did for the Colonial, when she became the first woman since Babe Zaharias in 1945 to play against the men. GHO organizers anticipate a large media presence, fielding requests from around the country and internationally.
The GHO is one of seven tournaments on the PGA Tour in need of a title sponsor; Canon pulled out of the GHO last year after 18 years. Officials scrambled over the winter to put together enough local corporate sponsors to come up $4 million, enough to break even this year.
Dan Baker, the GHO's tournament director, attended the Colonial and was amazed at what he saw.
'I've never been to a golf tournament where everyone was rooting for one person,' he said. 'I've never seen more positive energy.'
Whaley, he said, personifies positive energy.
'How lucky we are that she's got her priorities set. She knows what's important in life,' Baker said. 'I can be completely miserable and she calls up, and instantly I'm smiling. I can feel her smiling on the phone.'
Whaley's qualifying prompted the PGA of America to change its sectional tournament rules. She won her sectional last year playing from tees that made the course about 10 percent shorter than what the men faced. In January, the organization changed the sectional rules to make women play from the same tee as men, a regulation that became known as the 'Whaley Rule.'
She took it in stride.
'It's always nice to have a rule named after you,' she said.
Mickelson said Whaley has earned her way into the field and welcomes her participation.
'I think that the PGA Tour is not the men's professional golf tour. I look at the PGA tour as being the tour for the best players in the world, regardless of race, regardless of sex,' he said. 'It makes no difference to me whether the participant is a male or female.'
Unlike Sorenstam, Whaley is not a fixture on the LPGA Tour. She prefers to teach, promote junior golf and raise her daughters with her husband, Bill Whaley, the general manager of the TPC at River Highlands in Cromwell, the GHO course.
She's made just one LPGA cut this year out of a handful of tournaments and faces her toughest challenge in just a few days. Only one Connecticut PGA section player in the last 20 years has made the GHO cut.
'I just think getting that first tee shot in the air will be fun,' she said. 'Once that's done and over, I can smile, relax and breathe.'
The smile is a given.
Copyright 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
Suspended Hensby offers details on missed drug test
One day after receiving a one-year suspension from the PGA Tour for failing to provide a sample for a drug test, Mark Hensby offered details on the events that led to his missed test in October.
Hensby, 46, released a statement explaining that the test in question came after the opening round of the Sanderson Farms Championship, where the Aussie opened with a 78. Frustrated about his play, Hensby said he was prepared to give a blood sample but was then informed that the test would be urine, not blood.
"I had just urinated on the eighth hole, my 17th hole that day, and knew that I was probably unable to complete the urine test for at least a couple more hours," Hensby said. "I told this gentleman that I would complete the test in the morning prior to my early morning tee time. Another gentleman nearby told me that 'they have no authority to require me to stay.' Thus, I left."
Hensby explained that he subsequently received multiple calls and texts from PGA Tour officials inquiring as to why he left without providing a sample and requesting that he return to the course.
"I showed poor judgment in not responding," said Hensby, who was subsequently disqualified from the tournament.
Hensby won the 2004 John Deere Classic, but he has missed six cuts in seven PGA Tour starts over the last two years. He will not be eligible to return to the Tour until Oct. 26, 2018.
"Again, I made a terrible decision to not stay around that evening to take the urine test," Hensby said. "Obviously in hindsight I should have been more patient, more rational and taken the test. Call me stupid, but don't call me a cheater. I love the game. I love the integrity that it represents, and I would never compromise the values and qualities that the game deserves."
Day's wife shares emotional story of miscarriage
Jason Day’s wife revealed on social media that the couple had a miscarriage last month.
Ellie Day, who announced her pregnancy on Nov. 4, posted an emotional note on Instagram that she lost the baby on Thanksgiving.
Swipe to see what’s up in my world. It’s long-winded.... short version, we lost the baby. Had to share this since we had shared the news already. I know you’re all so supportive and kind. I just couldn’t face it before. Now let’s get back to our regularly scheduled programming. #ihavealotoffeelings #andphotostocatchupon
“I found out the baby had no heartbeat anymore. I was devastated,” she wrote. “I snuck out the back door of my doctor, a hot, sobbing, mascara-covered mess. Two and a half weeks went by witih me battling my heart and brain about what was happening in my body, wondering why this wouldn’t just be over.”
The Days, who have two children, Dash and Lucy, decided to go public to help others who have suffered similar heartbreak.
“I hope you know you aren’t alone and I hope you feel God wrap his arms around you when you feel the depths of sorrow and loss,” she wrote.
Newsmaker of the Year: No. 5, Sergio Garcia
This was the year it finally happened for Sergio Garcia.
The one-time teen phenom, known for years as “El Nino,” entered the Masters as he had dozens of majors beforehand – shouldered with the burden of being the best player without a major.
Garcia was 0-for-72 driving down Magnolia Lane in April, but after a thrilling final round and sudden-death victory over Justin Rose, the Spaniard at long last captured his elusive first major title.
The expectation for years was that Garcia might land his white whale on a British links course, or perhaps at a U.S. Open where his elite ball-striking might shine. Instead it was on the storied back nine at Augusta National that he came alive, chasing down Rose thanks in part to a memorable approach on No. 15 that hit the pin and led to an eagle.
A green jacket was only the start of a transformative year for Garcia, 37, who heaped credit for his win on his then-fiancee, Angela Akins. The two were married in July, and months later the couple announced that they were expecting their first child to arrive just ahead of Garcia’s return to Augusta, where he'll host his first champions’ dinner.
And while players often cling to the notion that a major win won’t intrinsically change them, there was a noticeable difference in Garcia over the summer months. The weight of expectation, conscious or otherwise, seemed to lift almost instantly. Like other recent Masters champs, he took the green jacket on a worldwide tour, with stops at Wimbledon and a soccer match between Real Madrid and Barcelona.
The player who burst onto the scene as a baby-faced upstart is now a grizzled veteran with nearly two decades of pro golf behind him. While the changes this year occurred both on and off the course, 2017 will always be remembered as the year when Garcia finally, improbably, earned the title of major champion.
Green jacket tour
Man of the people
Ace at 17th at Sawgrass
Departure from TaylorMade
Squashed beef with Paddy
Victory at Valderrama
Newsmakers of the Year: Top 10 in 2017
GolfChannel.com is counting down the top 10 Newsmakers of the Year as voted on by Golf Channel’s writers, editors, reporters and producers. Check out the list below, including future release dates:
No. 4: Dec. 13
No. 3: Dec. 14
No. 2: Dec. 15
No. 1: Dec. 18