Player, Teacher, Administrator Whaley Has Done It All – Now Heads PGA of America
When PGA of America recently held their meeting to settle on a new president, they had a choice about criteria. It’s the same choice giant corporations have – do we want someone who is an incredible business person, leader, organizational genius, or do we want someone who adores the company’s product because he or she came out of that world? The folks at the PGA of America meeting had an easy time of it this go- round, because they had someone who satisfies both sides of the question, to the hilt. They even made history by elevating the first female president in the organization’s history – and how cool is that? I have heard it said that the best manager of a theater is the one who has held every job in it, from pulling the curtain to directing the production. Suzy Whaley has not only been there, done that, but has co-written the show.
Whaley points out that as a young girl, she was eliminated from a tournament for being a girl, a tournament for which her game might have put her in contention. In the same breath, she reminds us that “Now I’ve played in a PGA event.” There’s nothing like commenting on extraordinary progress when you have been a part of it. Whaley goes on to reminisce about her time as a young adult, when she could not be certified as a teaching pro, being a woman. Women could take the lessons, but they couldn’t teach them. Whaley spoke to a PGA lawyer on the phone who suggested that she could call the President of the United States for all he cared. It wasn’t going to do her a bit of good. Now, Suzy Whaley is in the top job. We’ve seen women break through in many professions. For some, the resistance was brutally ugly, for others simply persistent. The world of politics has only recently managed it, but in golf, Whaley got the job without firing a shot. She built a resume that was simply too spectacular to ignore, and excelled at her job at every increment along the way.
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That resume includes playing on the LPGA tour, and participating in a PGA event. She was the first woman to do almost anything in the PGA structure, became a top 50 instructor, and spend half a decade teaching for the Jim Flick Schools. She was Connecticut’s PGA Teacher of the Year, ten times the Golf Digest’s State Teacher of the Year, a U.S. Golf Master Kids Teacher, and a PGA Master Professional. Whaley served on five occasions as a PGA Junior League National Finals Coach. Oh yes, she was a dual member of the PGA and LPGA Teaching and Club Professional Division. There’s more, but we’re not writing a book, just an article.
Humor me while I say what I’ve said before. When women are given parity in the structure (or any previously disenfranchised group), men are not under attack. They will, as a reward, have a better quality conversation with women than they would have had without them. PGA of America seems to have little trouble understanding that, at least these days. As for the game of golf, the most important thing I heard Whaley say characterized golf as “a game for a lifetime.” Perhaps that is obvious, but I must have needed reminding. The golf course is where I have stood as a young child, spell-bound by nature and hooked on gaining proficiency. It is where I have spent much of the best quality time with my friends and family. It is where I have experienced the best of international travel, and often, much-needed serenity. And now, as an older person, I stand on the tee box with same fascination with which I started, the same visuals, scenery, smells, and sensations, and everything that goes with them. It one of the most beautiful lenses through which I can view my own life.
So, congratulations to Suzy Whaley, the PGA of America, and gratitude for the game of a lifetime. Oh, and welcome to a better conversation.