Whaley First Woman to Play In PGA Club Pro

By George WhiteJune 18, 2002, 4:00 pm
Suzy Whaley doesnt feel like a pioneer. Shes a golfer. Shes also a mom, a head professional, a wife. But shes not a superwoman.
The pioneers are the LPGA founders, she said. Its just a privilege to go there and be a part of it.
It is the PGAs Club Pro Championship. There is Valhalla Country Club in Louisville, Ky. The CPC will be played this week, and there is one thing that makes this edition stand out from all the rest ' a woman will be playing. Susie Whaley will suspend her duties for one week at Blue Fox Run Golf Club is Avon, Conn., to tee it up with the men.
Im nervous, of course, but its an excited nervous, Whaley said. Im looking forward to it.
The top 25 players at the CPC go on to the PGA Championship. Whaley, despite the excellence of her play until now, wont be eligible because she has elected to play shortened tees, approximately 85-90 percent of the maximum course length. Had she chosen the longer tees and finished in the top 25, though, she would have become the first woman ever to start in a mens major championship.
She is more than satisfied, though, to be competing.
I just love competitive golf, she said. For me, its just another tournament. Ive been playing against guys since I was in high school ' I was on the boys high school golf team. So its not necessarily the boy-man-woman thing ' its more of an issue of me just wanting to compete, putting the number on the board and see where it falls.
Whaley was breathless as she spoke between phone calls at Blue Fox Run. I hope you will pardon me ' Im the only one here and this phone is ringing off the wall, she said. Between telephone interruptions, however, she revealed her life facts:
Whaley was born in Cherry Hill, N.J., and raised in Syracuse, N.Y. She started playing at age nine at the urging of her parents, both of whom played golf. Following her graduation from high school, she attended the University of North Carolina and played golf there until graduation in 1989. She played the LPGA Tour in 1990 and 93 before embarking on a career as a club professional.
That started almost five years ago as an assistant pro in Bloomfield, Conn., and she was chosen as head professional at Blue Fox Run in January.
Whaley is a two-time runner-up at the Reebok PGA Womens Stroke Play Championship. She is heavily involved in teaching and playing, as well as her administrative duties as head pro. The LPGA Teaching and Club Professional Division holds a tournament for the women. That, she confessed, was the real reason she entered the CPC qualifier.
I was really trying to get ready for the LPGA section event, she said, and I was using (the Club Pro qualifier) to get competitive, to get ready.
She didnt actually believe she would earn a trip to Valhalla. I started at the sectional level, she said, and I qualified there. Then I went to New Jersey and actually made it. Whaley shot a 77 in the final round to cap her tournament total of 300 - and Louisville became her destination.
But ultimately, she is still aiming for the womens championship.
That goal has eluded me so far ' I would like to win the LPGA Teaching and Club Pro Championship, she said. Ive played five, finished in the top five the last four years, and finished second once.
Whaleys husband, Bill Whaley, is also in golf administration. He is general manager and director of golf at the TPC at River Highlands, which happens to host a PGA Tour event.
Unfortunately, the Canon Greater Hartford Open (at River Highlands) is the same week as the CPC championship, so he wont be joining me, she said. Whaley also has two daughters, ages eight and five.
But for one week, Whaley wont be just a club pro, a wife, or a mom ' she is one of 36 PGA pros playing for the championship. She will be the initial one, the first woman to play with the men at the mens tournament.
I feel like its a real privilege to be going down there and playing as the only female, she said. I just feel fortunate.
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McIlroy gets back on track

By Ryan LavnerJanuary 21, 2018, 3:10 pm

There’s only one way to view Rory McIlroy’s performance at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship:

He is well ahead of schedule.

Sure, McIlroy is probably disappointed that he couldn’t chase down Ross Fisher (and then Tommy Fleetwood) on the final day at Abu Dhabi Golf Club. But against a recent backdrop of injuries and apathy, his tie for third was a resounding success. He reasserted himself, quickly, and emerged 100 percent healthy.

“Overall, I’m happy,” he said after finishing at 18-under 270, four back of Fleetwood. “I saw some really, really positive signs. My attitude, patience and comfort level were really good all week.”

To fully appreciate McIlroy’s auspicious 2018 debut, consider his state of disarray just four months ago. He was newly married. Nursing a rib injury. Breaking in new equipment. Testing another caddie. His only constant was change. “Mentally, I wasn’t in a great place,” he said, “and that was because of where I was physically.”

And so he hit the reset button, taking the longest sabbatical of his career, a three-and-a-half-month break that was as much psychological as physical. He healed his body and met with a dietician, packing five pounds of muscle onto his already cut frame. He dialed in his TaylorMade equipment, shoring up a putting stroke and wedge game that was shockingly poor for a player of his caliber. Perhaps most importantly, he cleared his cluttered mind, cruising around Italy with wife Erica in a 1950s Mercedes convertible.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

After an intense buildup to his season debut, McIlroy was curious about the true state of his game, about how he’d stack up when he finally put a scorecard in his hand. It didn’t take him long to find out. 

Playing the first two rounds alongside Dustin Johnson – the undisputed world No. 1 who was fresh off a blowout victory at Kapalua – McIlroy beat him by a shot. Despite a 103-day competitive layoff, he played bogey-free for 52 holes. And he put himself in position to win, trailing by one heading into the final round. Though Fleetwood blew away the field with a back-nine 30 to defend his title, McIlroy collected his eighth top-5 in his last nine appearances in Abu Dhabi.

“I know it’s only three months,” he said, “but things change, and I felt like maybe I needed a couple of weeks to get back into the thought process that you need to get into for competitive golf. I got into that pretty quickly this week, so that was the most pleasing thing.”

The sense of relief afterward was palpable. McIlroy is entering his 11th full year as a pro, and deep down he likely realizes 2018 is shaping up as his most important yet.

The former Boy Wonder is all grown up, and his main challengers now are a freakish athlete (DJ) and a trio of players under 25 (Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas, Jon Rahm) who don’t lack for motivation or confidence. The landscape has changed significantly since McIlroy’s last major victory, in August 2014, and the only way he’ll be able to return to world No. 1 is to produce a sustained period of exceptional golf, like the rest of the game’s elite. (Based on average points, McIlroy, now ranked 11th, is closer to the bottom of the rankings, No. 1928, than to Johnson.)

But after years of near-constant turmoil, McIlroy, 28, finally seems ready to pursue that goal again. He is planning the heaviest workload of his career – as many as 30 events, including seven more starts before the Masters – and appears refreshed and reenergized, perhaps because this year, for the first time in a while, he is playing without distractions.

Not his relationships or his health. Not his equipment or his caddie or his off-course dealings.

Everything in his life is lined up.

Drama tends to follow one of the sport’s most captivating characters, but for now he can just play golf – lots and lots of golf. How liberating.

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Crocker among quartet of Open qualifiers in Singapore

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 2:20 pm

Former amateur standout Sean Crocker was among four players who qualified for the 147th Open via top-12 finishes this week at the Asian Tour's SMBC Singapore Open as part of the Open Qualifying Series.

Crocker had a strong college career at USC before turning pro late last year. The 21-year-old received an invitation into this event shortly thereafter, and he made the most of his appearance with a T-6 finish to net his first career major championship berth.

There were four spots available to those not otherwise exempt among the top 12 in Singapore, but winner Sergio Garcia and runners-up Shaun Norris and Satoshi Kodaira had already booked their tickets for Carnoustie. That meant that Thailand's Danthai Boonma and Jazz Janewattanond both qualified thanks to T-4 finishes.

Full-field scores from the Singapore Open

Crocker nabbed the third available qualifying spot, while the final berth went to Australia's Lucas Herbert. Herbert entered the week ranked No. 274 in the world and was the highest-ranked of the three otherwise unqualified players who ended the week in a tie for eighth.

The next event in the Open Qualifying Series will be in Japan at the Mizuno Open in May, when four more spots at Carnoustie will be up for grabs. The 147th Open will be held July 19-22 in Carnoustie, Scotland.

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Got a second? Fisher a bridesmaid again

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:40 pm

Ross Fisher is in the midst of a career resurgence - he just doesn't have the hardware to prove it.

Fisher entered the final round of the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship with a share of the lead, and as he made the turn he appeared in position to claim his first European Tour victory since March 2014. But he slowed just as Tommy Fleetwood caught fire, and when the final putt fell Fisher ended up alone in second place, two shots behind his fellow Englishman.

It continues a promising trend for Fisher, who at age 37 now has 14 career runner-up finishes and three in his last six starts dating back to October. He was edged by Tyrrell Hatton both at the Italian Open and the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship in the fall, and now has amassed nine worldwide top-10 finishes since March.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Fisher took a big step toward ending his winless drought with an eagle on the par-5 second followed by a pair of birdies, and he stood five shots clear of Fleetwood with only nine holes to go. But while Fleetwood played Nos. 10-15 in 4 under, Fisher played the same stretch in 2 over and was unable to eagle the closing hole to force a playoff.

While Fisher remains in search of an elusive trophy, his world ranking has benefited from his recent play. The veteran was ranked outside the top 100 in the world as recently as September 2016, but his Abu Dhabi runner-up result is expected to move him inside the top 30 when the new rankings are published.

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McIlroy (T-3) notches another Abu Dhabi close call

By Will GrayJanuary 21, 2018, 1:08 pm

Rory McIlroy's trend of doing everything but hoist the trophy at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship is alive and well.

Making his first start since early October, McIlroy showed few signs of rust en route to a tie for third. Amid gusty winds, he closed with a 2-under 70 to finish the week at 18 under, four shots behind Tommy Fleetwood who rallied to win this event for the second consecutive year.

The result continues a remarkable trend for the Ulsterman, who has now finished third or better seven of the last eight years in Abu Dhabi - all while never winning the tournament. That stretch includes four runner-up finishes and now two straight T-3 results.

Full-field scores from the Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

McIlroy is entering off a disappointing 2017 in which he was injured in his first start and missed two chunks of time while trying to regain his health. He has laid out an ambitious early-season schedule, one that will include a trip to Dubai next week and eight worldwide tournament starts before he heads to the Masters.

McIlroy started the final round one shot off the lead, and he remained in contention after two birdies over his first four holes. But a bogey on No. 6 slowed his momentum, and McIlroy wasn't able to make a back-nine birdie until the closing hole, at which point the title was out of reach.