Karen Paolozzi made some history and two of the Georgia PGA’s top players survived a marathon playoff to highlight the recent Georgia PGA qualifying event for the 2016 PGA Professional National Championship.
Seven Georgia PGA members qualified for next year’s national club professional championship, which will be played in late June at Turning Stone Resort in upstate New York, the former site of a PGA Tour event and a past host of the PGA PNC.
Paolozzi became the first woman to win the Georgia PGA Professional Championship and just the second female to win a PGA Section PNC qualifying event, joining Connecticut club pro Suzy Whaley, who has competed in both the PGA Tour Hartford Open and the PGA Championship.
In addition to qualifying for next year’s PGA PNC, Paolozzi will also compete that month in the Women’s PGA Championship, one of the LPGA Tour’s majors.
Paolozzi, who joined the staff at Druid Hills Golf Club early last year, tied for second a month earlier in the LPGA’s championship event for teaching and club professionals, with winner Laurie Rinker and fellow runner-up Jean Bartholomew both veteran former LPGA Tour members.
Competing in two national events in the span of a few weeks next year will be “a big deal,” said Paolozzi, who has competed in both but not in the same year.
“For me that’s two majors. I consider the PNC a major because it’s the championship event for our profession.”
Paolozzi has enjoyed success at the national level in club pro championships conducted by both the LPGA and PGA the past two years. She received national acclaim in 2014 when she joined Whaley as the only women to make the cut in the PGA PNC, tying for 49th and getting quite a bit of air time on Golf Channel’s broadcast of the event, particularly during a second-round 71 when she shot 4-under on her final nine to make the cut.
Later that summer, Paolozzi placed second behind Bartholomew in the LPGA T&CP Championship at Chateau Elan to earn a spot in this year’s LPGA PGA Championship, and will play in the event again next year after a second straight runner-up appearance in the T&CP event.
Paolozzi shared the lead after 36 holes with Bartholomew this year at the Reunion Resort in Orlando, but Rinker came from behind to win with a final round 65. Paolozzi shot 70 despite a quadruple bogey that derailed her title hopes in Orlando. After getting off to a hot start with three birdies on her first six holes, an 8 on the par-4 seventh cost her the lead, but she rallied with three birdies on the last seven holes to claim a share of second place.
After shooting 66 at Dunwoody Country Club in the first round of the Georgia PGA PNC, Paolozzi did not have nearly as eventful a final round as she had a month earlier in Orlando. After 13 pars and a bogey on her first 14 holes, Paolozzi birdied two of the next three to put a little distance between herself and playing partners Mark Anderson and Tim Weinhart, who finished second and third respectively.
Paolozzi closed with a 72 after a bogey at the par-5 18th for a 6-under 138 total. Anderson, an instructor at Brunswick CC, shot back-to-back scores of 70 to take second at 140, with Weinhart, who recently became Director of Instruction at Heritage Golf Links, third at 141 after managing just one birdie in a second round 74.
Brian Puterbaugh, the Director of Instruction at the Hooch GC, was fourth at 143 after scores of 72-71, with Todd Ormsby, the head pro at Highland CC in LaGrange fifth at 71-73—144.
Four players tied for sixth at 145, with a playoff held to determine the final two of the seven spots the Georgia PGA was allotted for next year’s PGA PNC.
Karen Paolozzi and Hank Smith came away with the two qualifying spots, with Stevens needing five holes and Smith eight to qualify. Rodger Hogan and Mark Avery were the other two playoff participants, with Hogan the first alternate and Avery the second alternate. Cherokee T&CC instructor Kevin Roman won third alternate after finishing in a tie at 146 with Jordan Arnold and Joseph Finemore.
After shooting 77 in rainy conditions in the opening round without a birdie, Smith had six birdies in a second round 68 two days later, with most of the field never teeing off the second day before play was halted. The tournament was completed under sunny skies, with Smith’s 68 the low round of the day and one of just four scores under par.
The four playoff participants all parred the first four extra holes (18, 1, 18 and 17) before Stevens, the Director of Instruction at Brookstone G&CC, emerged as the first qualifier when he parred the 15th, the longest of Dunwoody’s par 4s. Smith and Avery both three-putted for bogey, with Hogan also making bogey after missing the green with his approach.
Avery, the head pro at Brookstone, dropped out when he bogeyed the 16th, and Smith and Hogan headed to an eighth extra hole after matching pars on the 17th. The playoff returned to the 15th and Smith, the head pro at Frederica GC on St. Simons Island, claimed the final spot when he hit his approach shot under trees from the rough to within about five feet of the hole for a winning birdie, the only one in the playoff.
Hogan, the head pro at Chattahoochee GC in Gainesville, started his final round with two birdies on his first five holes, but did not have another birdie on 21 holes the rest of the day.
Roman, who qualified for the PGA PNC four straight years from 2008-11, could have made it a five-way playoff, but bogeyed the par-5 18th after making a triple-bogey 8 on the par-5 fifth earlier in the day. He played his next 11 holes in 4-under before the bogey at 18. Arnold, an assistant at Achasta GC, and Finemore, the head pro at Big Canoe, both birdied the 18th, with Finemore carding four birdies in a final round 74 despite playing with a recently broken rib, which caused him noticeable discomfort.
Other than Weinhart and Stevens, who have 33 career appearances in the PGA PNC between them, the other five Georgia PGA qualifiers have minimal experience in the national club professional championship.
Paolozzi, Ormsby and Smith will be competing in the PNC for the second time, with Ormsby making his first appearance after winning the Georgia PGA PNC in 2013 at Champions Retreat outside Augusta. Anderson, a veteran Georgia PGA member who recently won the Georgia PGA Match Play Championship and qualified for the 2015 PGA Senior PNC in a playoff, will be making his first PNC start at the age of 55.
This is the third time Puterbaugh has qualified for the PNC, with his first appearance in the event coming at Reynolds Plantation in 2008. He finished second in the Georgia PGA PNC last year and won the event at Summit Chase in 1999 when there was a regional PNC in between Sectional qualifiers and nationals. After consecutive bogeys early in his final round in Dunwoody, Puterbaugh carded back-to-back birdies at holes 5 and 6, and played solidly the rest of the way with 11 pars and a birdie at par-5 11th.
Ormsby started his final round with nine straight 4s, ending his streak with a birdie at the par-4 10th. He wound up with a 73 after two bogeys on the back nine.
Paolozzi was just 1-under after 12 holes in the opening round, but ran off five birdies on her final six holes, chipping in on 13 and 16 and hitting it close for the other three birdies in her torrid finishing stretch.
“I hit my irons pretty good, and when I didn’t hit it on the green, I chipped spectacularly,” Paolozzi said. She had seven birdies after taking a bogey on the opening hole, but did not make her first birdie in better conditions two days later until the 15th hole. It wasn’t her career low round, ranking just behind “several 65s. But it was definitely a very, very good round for me.”
Paolozzi three-putted the par-5 fourth for bogey in the second round, and her lead was reduced to one shot when Anderson notched back-to-back birdies at 4 and 5. Weinhart briefly closed within one of the lead with a birdie at the eighth, and Anderson birdied the 10th to again get within a shot. Paolozzi hit it close on the par-4 15th for birdie to extend her lead to three, and after an Anderson birdie at 16, Paolozzi locked up her win, rolling in a lengthy birdie putt at 16.
The victory was worth $4,800 for Paolozzi, who also won the 2014 Georgia Women’s Open shortly after moving from Ohio to join the staff at Druid Hills. Paolozzi, who also won the 2015 Assistants’ Championship at Laurel Springs, played the Georgia PGA PNC at Dunwoody CC at 6,050 yards, with the men playing tees listed as 7,040 yards.