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Whaley earns exemption to next year's GHO

HARTFORD, Conn. -- Suzy Whaley has a chance to become the
first woman to play in a PGA Tour event. Whether she does so is
another matter.

Whaley, the head pro at a Connecticut golf club, earned an
exemption to next year's Greater Hartford Open. She won a PGA
Section Championship on Tuesday, becoming the first woman to
qualify for a tournament on the PGA Tour.

The 35-year-old former LPGA player said she hasn't decided if
she'll play at the GHO, a tournament close to home in several
respects.

Her husband, Bill, is the general manager at the TPC at River
Highlands in Cromwell, where the GHO is held each summer.

"It's ironic," said Whaley, who lives in the Hartford suburb
of Farmington. "My household has a lot of discussing to do on
that. That is truly up in the air."

The GHO is more than happy to welcome her.

"We'd be thrilled to have her," GHO chairman Dan Baker said.
"She's a great player. She earned it."

Baker said the GHO reserves a spot for the section champ with no
regard to gender. Baker said other women have previously tried to
qualify for the GHO.

On Tuesday, Whaley played off tees 10 percent closer to the hole
than the men's tees. She would have to play the GHO from the same
tees as the men.

Whaley, with her mother as her caddie, shot a 1-under-par 71 at
Ellington Ridge Country Club. She had a total of 5-under 211, with
rounds of 68-72-71 to win the Connecticut Section title. She is the
first woman to win a Section Championship.

"I had a couple wins this summer already and had a whole lot of
confidence," said Whaley, the pro at Blue Fox Run Golf Club in
Avon.

Whaley has already qualified for the LPGA Championship, thanks to a 9-shot win in the LPGA Teaching and Club Professional Championship at Southern Pines, N.C. in August. She won her third straight Connecticut Women's Open in May.

Two weeks ago, she became the first woman to compete in the pro vs. amateur Challenge Cup matches.

Whaley started the day two strokes behind leader Bob Mucha, then
fell three back when Mucha birdied No. 10. Mucha then made three
bogeys and a double bogey over the final six holes to finish second
at 213.

Whaley made her move on No. 16 with a birdie on the 430-yard
par-4 hole, dropping a 30-foot putt after hitting a 7-wood
approach.

Whaley grew up in Syracuse, N.Y., and played college golf at
North Carolina. She competed on the LPGA Tour in 1990 and 1993. The
birth of two daughters, now 8 and 5, kept her from serious
competition for a while.

In June, she became the first woman to qualify for the National
Club Professional Championship.

Tuesday's win also gives her a spot on next year's Challenge Cup
team, a 10-year exemption into the Connecticut Open and a lifetime
exemption into the Connecticut Section Tournament of Champions.

Her opponents this week were Connecticut colleagues.
"Hardworking guys," she called them.

"I've gotten to know them, but it was serious out there
today," Whaley said.

Whaley has been the head pro at Blue Fox Run for a year. Her
mother, Mary Ann McGuire, also caddied for her when she qualified
for this summer's nationals.

"She's my good-luck charm," Whaley said.