Sandra Changkija (Kissimmee, FL) LPGA/PGA Professional came from behind to win the Championship Division at 211 (-2). Changkija started the final round two shots behind her close friend Joanna Coe (Haverford, PA) PGA Professional. Paired together for each round of the LPGA Professionals National Championship presented by VOICE CADDIE, Changkija knew she had to play her best to get past Coe. Changkija did just that, opening the final round with a birdie and adding another one on No. 17 to join Coe at the top of the leaderboard. Tied after 54 holes, the pair headed out to No. 18 for a sudden-death playoff. The players matched each other with pars on the first two holes, but it was Changkija who ultimately walked away with the title after Coe three-putted on the third playoff hole for bogey. Changkija was the only player in the Championship Division to break par in the final round with her 70 (-1).
“I think my play this week was pretty steady, which was nice since I only practiced once or twice coming into the week,” Changkija said. “I’m just so excited that I was able to qualify again for KPMG. I’ve never played Baltusrol, though I’ve heard great things, so I’m really excited to get to play that golf course.”
Coe’s week was highlighted by a 67 (-4) in round two, which matched the lowest round of the National Championship. Coe carded eight birdies over the course of 54 holes. Despite losing in the playoff, Coe was happy that she chose to be aggressive on the greens, especially after both players two-putted for pars on the first two playoff holes.
“I came a long way with my ball striking in the last month, so I’m proud of that. I was joking with Sandra that I was trying to get my life together before this, and I’ve done that,” Coe said. “I may have gotten a little aggressive in the playoff, but go big or go home, right? I’m just happy to be heading back to KPMG after I failed to qualify last year. Baltusrol is at my home state of New Jersey, so I’m really excited to have some local support there.”
TICKETS PUNCHED TO BALTUSROL
Along with Changkija and Coe, the rest of the Championship Division’s top eight earned their spots in the 2023 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship at Baltusrol Golf Club: Alisa Rodriguez (Austin, TX) PGA Professional; Samantha Morrell (Naples, FL) LPGA Professional; Amy Ruengmateekhun (Frisco, Texas) LPGA Professional; Stephanie Connelly Eiswerth (Fleming Island, FL) LPGA Professional; Allie Knight (Knoxville, TN) PGA Professional, and Emily Miller (Livingston, TN) LPGA/PGA Professional.
Rodriguez finished third at 213 (E). The defending champion carded rounds of 70 (-1), 71 (E) and 72 (+1) to close out the championship.
“I’m so excited to be going back to KPMG for a third time. I may have missed the cut by two this year, but I was just playing so good, so hopefully next year will be a little different,” Rodriguez said. “One of my best memories from this past year’s event is that I got to play a practice round with Stacy Lewis. That was super cool getting to play with her since I idolized her as a little girl, so just to get to play with her was such a cool experience.”
Morrell and Ruengmateekhun finished T4 at 214 (+1).
“This week was a lot of work. It felt like I could not let up an inch. As soon as you get comfortable and let your guard down, bam you get whacked with a bogey,” Morrell said. “It felt like I had to grind the entire time. Nothing was guaranteed, nothing was a given. But when you have to work hard like that, it just makes it so much sweeter when you get what you worked for, especially when it’s the chance to play in a Major.”
“Becoming a Class A Teaching Professional has really helped me with my teaching and coaching high school. Being able to become a better teacher and instructor has helped my students and my high school kids too,” Ruengmateekhun said. “It’s also helped me with my self-talk and that mentality has really helped me. I plan to continue working on that as I prepare for Baltusrol. I am going to have to practice more and sharpen up my game, but I’m excited to get a chance to play in my second Major.”
Connelly Eiswerth, Knight and Miller finished T6 at 215 (+2).
“I’m looking forward to Baltusrol Golf Club,” Connelly Eiswerth said. “I certainly haven’t been there, so I’m really excited for the chance to tee it up there. It’s just always such a nice experience to have a Major to get to go play in. I’m definitely going to look up that course and start studying it when I get home.”
“Just going back to KPMG and getting to experience it all is so exciting. I learned a lot this last year including how long Major Championship courses are,” Knight said. “I have got to do something with my driver. So I have already started doing that, and I can tell a difference this week. I can tell my driver distance was better. I thought I hit some bombs out there. I know I need to keep working on that. I have some goals to get that driver going because I know it is going to be long and brutal again. Hopefully I can be better prepared for next year to just enjoy it and soak it all in.”
“I have five lessons to go back and teach. This is my second tournament this year, and I have not played in a full calendar year,” Miller said. “The tournament jitters were definitely there. I am planning to go down to Florida to play some more. My plan is to get some more tournament experience under my belt, hit more golf balls and make more putts before KPMG.”
HIRST RUNS AWAY WITH FIFTH-STRAIGHT CHALLENGE DIVISION TITLE
Charlaine Hirst (Pinehurst, N.C.) LPGA Professional and LPGA*USGA Girls Golf Site Director at the Country Club of Whispering Pines, started the final round tied for the Challenge Division lead, but by the end of the day, she had emerged from a contested leaderboard with a six-shot victory at 216 (+3). Her final round of 71 (E) was highlighted by birdies on Nos. 3 and 16. Hirst played steady golf throughout the week, carding five birdies to eight bogeys over 54 holes. This marked her fifth consecutive victory in the Challenge Division.
“It’s such a great week for me to get my game back in shape. It takes me a few days, the bones don’t move as well as they used to, but playing with friends and people that I see once a year at this event just loosens me up,” Hirst said. “My friends honestly keep me really relaxed at this event, so nothing is serious. If I don’t hit a good shot, it’s kind of where I expected, and if I do, it’s just what I expected. Honestly, I just love this event and everything that comes with it.”
Susan Fasoldt (Sarasota, FL) LPGA Professional and Kathryn Brinker (Farragut, TN) LPGA Apprentice finished T2 at 222 (+9). Fasoldt’s best round of the week was a 72 (+1) in round two, while Brinker’s best was a first round 71 (E). This was Brinker’s first time competing at the LPGA Professionals National Championship presented by VOICE CADDIE.
“With this being my first time, I didn’t really know what to expect,” Brinker said. “I didn’t know anybody, but from the welcome reception on I was able to meet some people and make some new friends, which is all I really wanted to do this week. I’m only an apprentice, so it was great to learn from the other professionals and I’m excited for my second class this fall.”
GINTER HOLDS ON FOR FIRST SENIOR DIVISION VICTORY
Sue Ginter (Jupiter, FL) LPGA Professional carded her lowest round of the week to win the Senior Division by one shot at 215 (+2). Ginter’s final round 71 (E) featured three birdies and three bogeys. She played incredibly steady golf over 54 holes, carding rounds of 72-72-71. Ginter’s key to success was having her son on the bag. Ginter said her son did a great job of making her laugh throughout the round and keeping things light when she wasn’t playing well.
“This is very special obviously. Anytime you win anything in golf, there are so many players in the field, so it’s very rare to win. So to win with all my fellow teaching pros, some I’ve known since junior golf, was so special,” Ginter said. “Then having my son with me was great. No matter where I hit the ball, he always had a positive comment which helped out a lot.”
Jean Bartholomew (Palm Beach Gardens, FL) LPGA Professional matched the lowest round of the LPGA Professionals National Championship presented by VOICE CADDIE with her final round 67 (-4). Bartholomew had a challenging start to the week, given her clubs were lost and she had to play with a rental set in round one. She ultimately finished round one at 79 (+8). Luckily enough, Bartholomew’s clubs were returned to her before round two, which proved to be the difference as she climbed her way up the leaderboard with rounds of 70 (-1) and 67 (-4). She finished just one shot back of Ginter at 216 (+3).
“This is a great event because a lot of us don’t get to see each other throughout the year because we’re so busy working. So when we do get this chance to be together, it’s just like the college days,” Bartholomew said. “You want to beat them, but you like hanging out with them too.”
PINNELL WINS SHIRLEY SPORK SUPER SENIOR CHAMPION AWARD FOR THE SECOND TIME
At the conclusion of the LPGA Professionals National Championship presented by Voice Caddie, Debra Pinnell (Leland, NC) [LPGA Professional] was awarded the Shirley Spork Super Senior Champion trophy, presented to the lowest scorer age 70 or older. She was the only player over the age of 70 to make the cut in the Senior Division. She finished T21 at the tournament with rounds of 76 (+5), 77 (+6) and 82 (+11) for a tournament total of 235 (+22).
“It’s a wonderful honor and so fun to come to this tournament every year. I love coming to this and I had actually withdrawn from the two tournaments prior to this so I could make sure that I was ready to play,” name said. “To have an award with Shirley Spork’s name on it is such an honor. I didn’t know her real well, but I would call her once a year and she was always so enthusiastic and excited to chat with me. She was just a wonderful lady all around.”
LPGA co-founder Shirley Spork was always a player with a keen eye for golf swing technique, leading her to become one of six inaugural members of the LPGA Professionals Hall of Fame. In 1959, Spork helped found the LPGA Professionals along with Marilynn Smith, Betty Hicks and Barbara Rotvig. The Michigan native was twice named LPGA National Teacher of the Year (1959 and 1984). She also served as the LPGA’s Chairperson for eight years.