- The Washington Times - Friday, July 25, 2003

CROMWELL, Conn. — Suzy Whaley’s ever-present smile faded just slightly as she finished the second round at the Greater Hartford Open. Not because she was disappointed in her score, but because she knew her whirlwind week on the PGA Tour was over.

“I wish I could explain to you how it feels to have that many people cheering for you all day long, for two days straight. It’s the most wonderful feeling in the world,” she said. “So I was a little sad on the last putt. But it was a great, great week.”

The first woman to qualify for a PGA event since Babe Zaharias in 1945, Whaley shot a 78 yesterday to finish at 13 over and miss the cut, which was even par. She finished 148th, tied with three men and ahead of three — not counting slumping 13-time tour winner David Duval, who withdrew after an opening-round 83.

The 36-hole leader was Peter Jacobsen at 10-under 130.

But the score didn’t matter for Whaley, just as it didn’t for LPGA star Annika Sorenstam when she accepted a sponsor’s exemption to play in the PGA’s Colonial in May and missed the cut there.

And it was just as irrelevant to the galleries that followed Whaley around the course, wearing pins of support or shouting “You go, girl!” One young girl told Whaley: “You’re my hero.”

“For me, I think the greatest benefit in the world is every single young girl that was here today, including my own daughters, who watched me tee off with two men like it was not anything different than it should be,” Whaley said.

“And I feel like I showed people that you can achieve anything. … My girls know that now.”

While Sorenstam is the LPGA’s top player, Whaley was a teaching pro from a club in Avon who spent time on the women’s tour in the early 1990s before giving it up to raise a family. She has two daughters: Jennifer, 8, and Kelly, 6.

Whaley played her way into the tournament by winning the Connecticut PGA section last year. She hit from the women’s tees in that event — making the course about 10 percent shorter — but she played the TPC River Highlands from the championship tees, a total of 6,820 yards.

After a short but steady round on Thursday left her 5 over, Whaley struggled more yesterday — making three double bogeys — but also notched another birdie. Although she played most of the holes conservatively, she was unable to recover from the few mistakes she made — recording 6s on Nos.4, 15 and 17, all par-4s.

She matched her lone first-round birdie by making a 14-footer at No.1, a 434-yard par-4.

Whaley missed a 4-foot par putt on No.9, then tapped in to finish the round. Drawing the last of many huge cheers from the gallery, she held up a towel that said “PGA Tour” to commemorate her historic appearance.

“I thought I thought of every scenario,” she said. “I thought how it would be, but it was better than I could ever have imagined.”

Whaley said she will be back at the course today to watch, with no definite plans after that. She would like to do television commentary and perhaps play in a few LPGA events if she is offered sponsor’s exemptions.

“My family is the most important thing in the world to me,” she said. “It’s very hard to play high-level competitive golf when you have young children. And right now, that’s probably a decision that I won’t do.”

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