Kelly Whaley Fires Course Record 5-under Par 65 at Keney Park Golf Course and Captures the Hartford Women's Open Title
By Bruce Berlet
HARTFORD, Conn. (June 10, 2018) – The First Family of Connecticut Golf struck again in emphatic fashion on Sunday.
Kelly Whaley, the youngest of two daughters in the well-known clan, shot the first bogey-free round of her career, a women’s course-record, 5-under-par 65 at Keney Park Golf Course, for a 36-hole total of 133 and a five-stroke victory in the Hartford Women's Open over fellow amateur Linda Wang.
Whaley, 21, began the day with a one-stroke lead over pro Jordan Lintz and wasn’t happy with the way she started the final round with her father, Bill, caddying for her again.
“I wasn’t hitting it well going into the event and didn’t hit that good the first five holes (Sunday),” said Whaley, who opened with a 2-under 68 at Goodwin Park Golf Course on Saturday. “Then on the sixth tee, I told myself to start really hitting it, and I felt more confident from then on.”
More confident indeed. Whaley hit a 9-iron on the par-3 sixth hole to 4 feet and made the birdie putt, then knocked wedge approaches on Nos. 8 and 9 to a foot to turn in 32 and take most of the suspense out of the tournament.
Whaley made two birdies, including a 25-foot putt at No. 16, and was never in danger of making a bogey in a 33 on the back nine played alongside Wang and Lintz, who earned the $3,000 first-place check Sunday by shooting 70 to finish third at 139.
“I was really steady and hitting each individual shot was my priority,” said Whaley, making her tournament debut in the 3-year-old event. “My first goal was trying to think birdies, and if I didn’t make one, I just thought about the next hole.
“Not getting ahead of myself was important, and I managed to stay patient.”
It was the second major victory this year for Whaley, who shot a school-record 12-under in winning the Briars Cliff Invitational in her junior season at the University of North Carolina, her mother Suzy’s alma mater before she played on the LPGA Tour in 1990 and 1993. Kelly, who won the Connecticut State Women’s Amateur Championship three times, also would like to play on the LPGA Tour and has seen several key improvements in her game the last few years.
“My putting is better, but most importantly, I’m a lot stronger mentally,” said Whaley, who lives in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla. “We work on that a lot at UNC, and now I’m able to handle harder situations better.”
Bill Whaley played on the Australian and Asian Tours and is now the Senior Regional Director of Operations at the PGA Tour after being the general manager and Director of Golf at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell, home of the Travelers Championship, which is June 21-24. He also has seen more mental toughness in his daughter.
“Kelly has always been a good ball-striker, but now there’s a lot less highs and lows,” Bill said. “She’s trying to stay within herself, live in 45 seconds and don’t get rattled. She is still competitive and hard-charging, but she doesn’t get frustrated as much as she used to.”
Kelly has worked mainly on her game with Bill and her mother, who has a litany of achievements on and off the course, most notably winning the 2002 Connecticut Section PGA Championship to qualify for the 2003 Greater Hartford Open, the first woman to accomplish that feat since Babe Zaharias in the 1945 Los Angeles Open. She also became the first female elected an officer in the PGA of America in 2014, and on Nov. 9, she will become the first female elected president of the national organization and then host its annual meeting in Hartford in 2020.