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Woman qualifies for PGA Tour event

Suzy Whaley became the first woman to qualify for a PGA Tour event, earning an exemption to next year's Greater Hartford Open by winning a PGA Section Championship on Tuesday.

Whaley, also the first woman to win a Section Championship, shot a 1-under-par 71 to finish at 5-under 211 after shooting 68-72-71 at the Ellington Ridge Country Club to win the Connecticut Section title.

"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.

The victory also gives her a berth 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.

Whaley, 35, also was the first woman to qualify for the National Club Professional Championship this past June.

Whaley said she hasn't decided on whether to play at the GHO. Her husband, Bill, is the general manager at the TPC at River Highlands, where the GHO is held each summer.

"My household has a lot of discussing to do on that," she said. "That is truly up in the air."

GHO Chairman Dan Baker said the GHO reserves a spot for the section champ and makes no distinction with regard to gender. He said Whaley, who played Tuesday from tees 10 percent closer than men's tees, would have to play the GHO from the same tees as the men.

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

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

The mother of two girls, Whaley has been the head pro at Blue Fox Run for a year. Her mother, Mary Ann McGuire, caddied for her Tuesday. McGuire was also on Whaley's bag when she qualified for this summer's nationals.

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

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