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.