History was made last week when the largest sports organization in the country, the Professional Golfers Association of America, held its annual meeting in Palm Springs, CA, and elected its first female president.
The PGA came about after Lewis Rodman Wanamaker, a wealthy New York department store owner, invited a group of influential people to lunch. Francis Ouimet and Walter Hagen, two of the biggest names in golf, were among those invited. In the early days, professional golfers were held in the same regard as caddies — more working class than golf-membership class. In fact, golf pros were not even allowed in most clubhouses. The primary mission of that organizational luncheon was to determine how the golf professionals could help Wanamaker sell more golf balls in his store and the PGA of America was formed.
Since its inception in 1916, there have been 40 presidents of the 29,000-member PGA of America and all have been men . . . until now. The 41st President of the PGA of America is PGA Master Professional from Connecticut, Suzy Whaley.
I met Suzy several years ago after she won the Connecticut PGA Championship. That victory earned the winner a spot in the 2003 Greater Hartford Open on the PGA Tour.
I must say I was very impressed at our first meeting. Suzy presented herself as a highly talented golf professional who had a million-dollar smile and was a sheer delight to interview. Over the years, I have had numerous opportunities to spend more time with Suzy and, quite frankly, with each visit, my admiration has grown higher.
Now that Whaley is President of the PGA, I foresee the members making huge strides to grow the game, to understand it from a different perspective. I reached out to Southampton resident and longtime PGA member Bob Joyce for his reaction on Whaley rising to the top of his organization. He said, “I have known Suzy for several years and she is a very good player.” Joyce went on to say “Suzy is a great role model for all golf professionals and especially junior golfers” and Bob wished Suzy the very best as she assumes her role as the first female President of the PGA of America.
Whaley will have a lot on her plate as the PGA runs or oversees two of the biggest professional golf events on the calendar, The PGA Championship to be held in 2019 at Bethpage in May, and of course, the Ryder Cup, which will be held in 2020 at Whistling Straits in Wisconsin. In addition, the PGA hosts many other tournaments for their members and encourages juniors to take up the game and play in the PGA Junior League.
Like anyone in that position, there is little doubt that Suzy will be under close scrutiny, but based on my dealings with her, she is more than enough qualified to do an outstanding job. Golf pros often work long hours in the golf shop and on the range teaching, plus trying to keep members happy is never an easy task. If you want to play better and derive more pleasure from your golf game, visit one of the many talented, dedicated club and teaching professionals to get your game going in the right direction.
Speaking of going in the right direction, that is exactly what Lee Westwood did this past weekend. The 45-year-old Englishman who was playing in the European Tour’s Nedbank Challenge in South Africa fired a brilliant final round. After an eagle and six birdies with no bogies, he notched up his 24th European Tour win and his first since 2014.
Meanwhile down on the Mexican Riviera, 40-year-old Matt Kutcher, who had played in 89 events spanning four years without a win, came out on top. Oddly enough, Matt’s regular caddie, John Wood, had a conflict and couldn’t make the trip after Matt entered the Mayakoba Golf Classic at the last moment. David Giral Ortiz, better known as “El Tucan,” the El Camaleon Golf Course caddie coordinator who lives in Playa Del Carmen, came to the rescue and after Matt’s win, walked away with somewhere in the range of two million pesos. What a week for both of them!
So, Whaley, Westwood, and Kutcher all good people, all involved in good things. I like it when good things happen to good people.