And A Whaley They Go

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Phil Mickelson is the two-time defending champion at the Greater Hartford Open, but even he will stand in the shadows as the spotlight is cast upon Suzy Whaley.
 
Two months after Annika Sorenstam became the first woman in 58 years to play in a PGA Tour event, Whaley will tee it up with the boys.
 
The 36-year-old club pro from Avon, Conn., won the Connecticut PGA Sectional to qualify for this event, whereas Sorenstam accepted an invitation to compete in the Bank of America Colonial, where she missed the cut.
 
Whaley, who won the qualifier while playing from the forward tees ' the rule has been since been changed to make women play from the same tees as men - has been trying to gear her game by increasing her physical workouts as well as her competitive schedule; all while continuing to teach at Blue Fox Run Golf Course and raise two daughters.
 
Unlike Sorenstam, Whaley is not a mainstay on the LPGA Tour, though played for two years in the early 90s. She has competed in four events this year, missing two cuts. She finished tied for 48th last weeks Sybase Big Apple Classic.
 
Whaleys husband, Bill, is the general manager at the TPC at River Highlands in Cromwell, where the event takes place.
 
Mickelson has reigned on the 6,820-yard, par-70 venue the last two years. He won by one shot over Billy Andrade in 2001, and by a single stroke over Jonathan Kaye and Davis Love III last year.
 
He is the only repeat champion in the 51 years of this event. Paul Azinger (1987, 89) and Arnold Palmer (1956, 60) also won twice, while Billy Casper prevailed four times (1963, 65, 68, 73).
 
Mickelson, who tied for 59th in the Open Championship, is still in search of his first victory this season.
 
While Lefty is not a lock to win, there is a good chance that the tournament will be tightly contested. Eighteen of the last 20 events have been decided by two strokes or less.
 
This years purse is $4 million, with $720,000 going to the winner. They are the same figures as 2002.
 
GHO officials are hoping Whaley will do for them what Sorenstam did for Colonial. The Swedes presence brought great fan and media attention, thus increasing the cash flow.
 
The GHO is one of seven tour events in need of a title sponsor. Canon dropped its affiliation last year after 18 years. Officials were able to put together enough local corporate sponsors to secure this years prize fund.
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - Greater Hartford Open
  • More PGA Tour Preview Information
  • More on Suzy Whaley