PGA of America president Suzy Whaley sees more-inclusive game in future

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PGA of America president Suzy Whaley sees more-inclusive game in future

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PGA of America president Suzy Whaley sees more-inclusive game in future

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Suzy Whaley became the 41st president of the PGA of America, the first female to hold the position, at the organization’s 102nd annual meeting in November. The 52-year-old PGA Master Professional spoke to Golfweek ahead of this month’s PGA Championship at Bethpage Black and the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship at Hazeltine in June about the work she’s proud of, what still needs to be done and standing in line before dawn to play golf.

With the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, our objective is to host that tournament on golf courses that are spectacular and ones that previously were only male-championship venues. We’ve done that, and we’re excited about that, and we’re proud of that. We want women to play on top-notch championship courses as much as possible, and I feel the same way about collegiate golf.


My youngest daughter, Kelly, is a feel player. So am I. When we start getting technical, we don’t play well. The way we’re different is that Kelly shakes off a bad round much faster than I could, which is great. Kelly is better than I was, which is great. She has won a couple college tournaments in her career (at the University of North Carolina). Kelly just loves competition, and I love competition as well, but she loves it when the lights come on.


I’d like to see more tees for women. I would love to see all golf courses have a tee that’s about 4,600 yards. That means for juniors, seniors and women who find themselves wanting to play at a shorter yardage, there’s an option. You think about people who start from the back tee box and as they work through their lifetime in golf, which we say is cradle to grave, they typically have five options to move up. We tell most people who are new to the game today, you’re going to start on the forward tees and that’s where you’ll stay. I don’t think that’s right.


We want as many (golfers) as possible for as long as possible with the best experience possible. To do that, can we make some adjustments to the scorecard? Can we showcase the fact that, like skiing, you could be on the green slopes all day long and have a blast. Nobody is telling you that you have to shoot 72. But our scorecard says 72 is the standard.

Is it really the standard for most people who play the game? I want people who play the game to consider themselves golfers. Everywhere I go and speak, I’ll ask people:

Are you a golfer? No, I’m not a golfer.

When’s the last time you played? Last week.

What do you mean you’re not a golfer? Well, I’m not a good golfer.

Wait a second, nobody asked if you’re a good golfer.


I think we have to change the culture of the way the game is inherently delivered and seen. So many more would come play and join us if they didn’t have that expectation that everybody that currently plays shoots 72. I think we’ve got to change that conversation.


I drove to Bethpage Black, I don’t know, six years ago. We were the ones in the parking lot at 4 a.m. It doesn’t matter what your affiliation is at Bethpage Black, you’re waiting in line. … I did the same thing at Torrey Pines. Our daughters were very little and playing in the Callaway Junior World Championship, and we wanted to play Torrey Pines. My husband and I waited in the singles line because we thought we could get through it faster than the regular line. My family, we love to play golf. We’re a little crazy about it, that’s for sure. Gwk

(Note: This story appears in the May 2019 issue of Golfweek.)


   

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