Pro golfer Suzy Whaley was the first woman to qualify and participate in PGA tour event in 58 years — and she was only the third woman to compete in a PGA tour event. Her victory captured the attention of the millions who play golf and the millions who aspire to join the game.
As the keynote speaker of The First Tee of Montgomery County luncheon and golf outing held at TPC Avenel on June 2, Whaley personalized her message of the importance of golf for girls and women. She discussed her own life, while making certain to relate it to the 140 women in the room. “You may go out for a tournament and you may make a 10 on your first hole because you are nervous. My attitude — thank goodness it’s not an 11. Golf teaches you perseverance and courage — respect and courtesy — not to give up. It has given me opportunities that I never would have had. It’s taught me to walk onto the course with my head held high, even though the competition field consists of the best male golfers in the world.”
Whaley shared the story of her fears, her insecurities — and all that she went through before making her decision to complete as the only female in the PGA’s Greater Hartford Open in 1993. With a low-keyed, humorous style, she relayed how she became interested in golf at age 9, when her mom was called to the driving range because Suzy was hitting balls in her bathing suit — not proper attire for golfing. Her mom asked her if she liked hitting balls, and Whaley replied, “I love it.” “Then let’s get you something to wear in the pro shop,” said her mom. And that attitude changed Whaley’s life. When she decided to quit law school to try to earn her PGA tour card, her mom said, “Great — you can always become a lawyer later.”
Whaley is now a teaching professional, married to Bill Whaley, a PGA professional and her coach. He is the national director of golf for PGA Tour Properties and the general manager and PGA director of golf at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, Conn. They have two daughters who are both attending college on golf scholarships. Whaley currently teaches the game at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, Conn., as the director of instruction of Suzy Whaley Golf. Her business includes private instruction, group instruction and the Suzy Whaley Junior Golf Academy.
Leon Harris of WJLA Channel 7 emceed the event and sportscaster and author Christine Brennan was the honorary chairwoman. Harris applauded the organization for the fact that, in The First Tee of Montgomery County, more than 50 percent of the participants are young girls. He thanked the coordinators of the event for what they are doing for our county and for helping to grow the game of golf. “But most important is that The First Tee teaches nine core values,” he said. “These are honesty, respect, integrity, perseverance, courtesy, confidence, sportsmanship, responsibility and judgment. These are values that serve the kids for life.”
After the luncheon, speakers, raffle drawings and silent auction announcements, 92 golfers hit the links for an afternoon of golf and contests on the course. Whaley was on the par 3 number 9 hole for the “Beat the Pro” contest.
“This was an outstanding day — and the best part is that all the proceeds go to the kids,” said Board Member Jackie Simmons-Reade. “The First Tee teaches the fundamentals of golf to more than 500 kids in Montgomery County each summer, teaches them good citizenship and gives them a life-time sport.”
Mom and daughter Jackie and Juliette Voorthuis of Potomac enjoyed the outing and playing the course. Juliette said, “This is a wonderful opportunity to encourage golf in younger people. It encourages families to play together — I really enjoy playing with my mom.”
The First Tee will host another outing this coming fall. To learn more about The First Tee, to volunteer, to donate to help their mission or to donate “nearly-new” golf clothing or equipment, go to www.thefirstteemcmd.org.