Original story written by T.J. Auclair of PGA.com.
VERONA, N.Y. — The goal for most players teeing it up in the PGA Professional Championship is to be a top-20 finisher and qualify for the PGA Championship.
Karen Paolozzi, an assistant professional from Druid Hills Golf Club in Atlanta, did far better than a top 20, but qualifying for the PGA Championship wasn’t a possibility for her.
Paolozzi shot a 2-under 70 — that included birdies on two of her final four holes — in the final round for the 49th PGA Professional Championship at Turning Stone Resort’s Atunyote course on Wednesday. Her 72-hole total of 5-under 283 propelled her to an amazing tie for seventh, the best-ever finish for a woman professional in tournament history.
“It feels good to finish with a couple of birdies there. I came into this week just wanting to make the cut. I had no expectations of finishing this high. This was just thrilling.”
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Previously, the best finish in the PPC by a woman professional was a T49. Paolozzi did that in 2014.
But this one? It was extra special.
“This was incredibly satisfying,” Paolozzi said. “If you had told me before the week started that I was going to finish in the top 10, I probably would have doubted you. I know I left several shots out there as all of us do. But I’m extremely happy with finishing strong and finishing in that top 10. I’m really, really excited about that. I was an All-American at Indiana and that was probably the highlight of my golf career so far, but this is right up there and right behind that.”
Paolozzi wasn’t eligible to qualify for the PGA Championship this year even with the top-20 finish.
The PGA of America’s John Dever explained the situation:
Women PGA Professionals are eligible so long as they meet the following criteria: They must first compete from the same set of tees as men PGA Members at their respective Section PGA Professional Championship. Should a woman PGA Professional advance to the PGA Professional Championship using the same tees as a Section’s male competitors, the player also must compete from the same set of tees as their male counterparts in the national Championship to be eligible for a berth in the PGA Championship.
This year’s women competitors, Ashley Grier and Karen Paolozzi, chose not to pursue this path and entered the Championship at Turning Stone with full knowledge of the scenario at hand.
This does not impact any money the women earn for their finish in the PGA Professional Championship.
Those facts — which Paolozzi knew up front — weren’t going to sour what was an outstanding week.
“Playing in this in 2014 and playing in the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship the last two years has prepared me for the bigger stage, so I definitely think that has really helped,” she said. “My entire goal with all this is to inspire other women to give it a shot out here. I have fun playing, but I want to get more women out here playing and competing — playing in their section events and making their way up.”