The Georgia PGA will not have any representatives in this year’s PGA Championship, but one player from the Section made a lot of news in the recent PGA Professional National Championship, played in Myrtle Beach, S.C.
Karen Paolozzi, who recently moved into the Georgia Section as an assistant at Druid Hills Golf Club, became just the second female to make the cut in the event, and finished with the lowest 72-hole total ever, eclipsing the mark set by Suzy Whaley.
Paolozzi, one of two Georgia PGA members to make it through 72 holes, tied for 49th at 298, but attracted a considerable amount of air time on the Golf Channel, particularly during the second round.
After hovering around the 36-hole cut line throughout the first nine, Paolozzi shot 4-under 32 on her final nine to easily advance to the third round. She finished the tournament with scores of 75-71-78-74.
The other Georgia PGA member to advance beyond both the second and third round cuts was Sonny Skinner of River Pointe in Albany. Skinner shot himself into the top 10 with a third round 68, the low score of the day, but fell back with a 78 the final round and missed a top 20 finish by two strokes. Skinner tied for 31st with scores of 76-73-68-78—295.
Skinner, who has made three starts in the PGA Championship since 2008, has earned PGA Senior Player of the Year honors four straight times.
One of the 20 club professionals to qualify for the PGA Championship has Georgia ties, even though he is not a member of the Georgia Section. Johan Kok, a Tennessee club professional, was one of the state’s top junior golfers growing up in Peachtree City before playing in college at South Carolina.
Kok played professionally in his native South Africa and on the European Tour before becoming a PGA member in Tennessee. He tied for 8th in the PNC with scores of 67-78-72-73—290. He shared the lead after the first round and was a contender the final day after a strong front nine, but shot 3-over on the back and finished four shots of a playoff.
Also making the 36-hole cut was Todd Ormsby, a teaching professional at Braelinn Golf Club in Peachtree City. Ormsby, who won last year’s Georgia PGA qualifier for the PNC, shot 74-72 the first two rounds, but missed the 54-hole cut after a third round 80.
Missing the 36-hole cut by three shots at 152 were Tim Weinhart of the Standard Club and Greg Lee of Chicopee Woods. Also competing in the PNC but missing the cut were Craig Stevens of Brookstone Country Club, Bill Murchison of Towne Lake Hills, Tommy Brannen of Augusta Country Club and Charlie King of Griffin Golf Course.
Former Druid Hills assistant Jeff Jordan, a Jonesboro native who is now a head pro in Alabama, made the 54-hole cut. Former Cherokee Town & Country Club pro Dave Bahr, now a head pro in Ohio, missed the 36-hole cut, as did former UGA women’s golf coach Todd McCorkle, an assistant pro in Alabama.
Paolozzi qualified for the PNC from the Northern Ohio Section, joining the staff at Druid Hills earlier this year. Her husband Vinnie Paolozzi also joined her in moving into the Georgia PGA Section, and is an assistant at Cherokee Town & Country Club.
Her showing in the PNC was not Paolozzi’s first strong effort in a national PGA event. In 2010 she tied for 10th in the PGA Assistant Championship and won tournaments against male PGA counterparts in both Maryland and Ohio.
Paolozzi made her mark in the tournament with a sizzling back nine in the second round, which was the primary focus of the Golf Channel’s coverage that day.
“I wanted to make the cut,” Paolozzi said after the second round. “This is exactly what my goal was. I wanted to come here and play well. I was a little disappointed after yesterday, but I knew if I put in a solid round today, I had a chance.”
A chip-in birdie at the 10th hole started Paolozzi’s torrid finish, and she added three birdie putts to easily make the 36-hole cut.
The field was cut from the low 90 and ties after 36 holes to the low 70 for the final round, and Paolozzi narrowly survived that cut thanks a late birdie. She rebounded the next day with her second best score of the week to beat Whaley’s 72-hole total.
“I hope to improve on it in the future,” Paolozzi said. “That’s quite an honor because Suzy Whaley and Patty Post (the other female to play in the PNC), are great players. I proved to myself that I can still play at this level.”
Paolozzi was a first team All-American at Indiana, winning six tournaments in her college career including a Big 10 Championship. She played professionally on what is now the Symetra Tour before becoming a club professional.
“This whole experience was way more than I thought it was going to be. I didn’t know what to expect with media, or the response of being the only female, but it was great.”