Originally created 06/20/02

Whaley poised to beat the men at PGA Club Pro

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Suzy Whaley wasn't expecting any special treatment at this week's PGA Club Professional Championship. Turns out she has her very own locker room.

"It's nice to have a bathroom all to myself," said Whaley, the first woman to qualify for the tournament in its 35-year history.

Women have always been eligible for the tournament. This year, 18 entered qualifying, but only Whaley survived the two rounds.

The tournament's top 25 finishers earn bids to the PGA Championship in August. Whaley won't get one no matter what she shoots, because she's playing from tees that trim 1,054 yards off the 7,030-yard layout the other 155 golfers will play.

The former LPGA Tour player had the option to play from the back tees, but declined.

In a practice round Tuesday, Whaley split the sixth fairway with a drive, while her three playing partners all found the rough from their tee, 60 yards farther back.

Jim Empey, Charlie Gibson and Kyle Karnow all missed the green with their approaches to the par-4, while Whaley hit an easy 7-iron to 20 feet.

Her playing partners were grumbling after the round.

"Equity is when things are even," said Gibson, a former PGA Tour pro who co-owns two courses in northern California. "We can't tie, it's not even. It's difficult to achieve something everybody would think was fair."

"It does present some difficulties," said Empey, a pro from Boise, Idaho. "As good a player as Suzy is, in some ways, she has an advantage. But is it offset by other things? I don't know."

Whaley dismisses the notion that she's playing an easier course this week.

"We're still hitting the same iron in, even if my drive is farther than the guys'. If I'm hitting an 8-iron, then they're hitting an 8-iron," she said. "That's the goal of the PGA, and I think it's pretty fair."

Other players support Whaley's presence.

"I hit balls next to her on Monday. She's got an awesome golf swing," said Stan Bickel, from Fort Thomas, Ky. "A lot of people have opinions about her playing different tees. I don't think anything of it."

Whaley played on the LPGA Tour in 1990, but struggled. The year wasn't a total loss, however. She met her husband, Bill, now the general manager at the TPC at the Highlands, the site of this week's PGA Tour event.

Whaley earned back her LPGA card in 1993, but quit the tour to start a family. She's now the mother of two girls, Jennifer, 7, and Kelly, 4.

Raising children hasn't taken away her itch for competition. After this week, she'll start preparing for the LPGA's Teaching and Club Pro Championship in late July.

She hopes more women follow her lead to the PGA event.

"It could be good for women's golf. Next year, I hope there are two of us, at least," she said. "It is a lonely locker room."


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