INDIANAPOLIS – Suzy Whaley’s victory on Saturday at the PGA of America’s annual meeting wasn't just historic; it was decisive, too.
Whaley collected 52 percent of the 114 votes on the first ballot to become the PGA’s next secretary and the association’s first female officer.
This marks the first time a secretary has been elected on a first ballot with at least three candidates in PGA history and the first initial-ballot victory since Roger Warren was elected in 2000, when he ran unopposed.
The victory puts Whaley in line - four years from now - to become the association’s first female president and helps mitigate a derisive chapter in the PGA’s history following last month’s ouster of president Ted Bishop, following an insensitive tweet in which he called Ian Poulter a “Lil girl.”
But Whaley’s victory was more than simply a mandate following Bishop’s miscue. Whaley - a Connecticut club professional who made national news when she became the first female in 58 years to qualify for a PGA Tour event, the 2003 Hartford Open - had been the frontrunner for the post well before Bishop tweeted his response to Poulter’s criticism of Nick Faldo on Oct. 23.
“Our theme for this week was driving the game forward and certainly we are looking to be inclusive to all of those who want to play the game,” Whaley said. “As we move forward, I hope we show that, and I hope I can be a part of that.”
There had been some speculation that Russ Libby, who was running against Whaley, had closed the gap in recent weeks, but he collected just 33 percent of vote. Michael Haywood was the third candidate and received 14 percent of the vote.
“I hope we rise above the fray and return the best candidate and the best person to be the secretary of the PGA,” said Gary Reynolds during Whaley’s nominating speech.
Whaley’s campaign focused on the PGA’s various grow-the-game initiatives, particularly its junior programs. She takes over the secretary role from Paul Levy who will become vice president.
“We have enormous opportunities to get women to play the game and young girls and boys to play the game through our junior programs and let the consumer know we are here for them,” she said.