Stephanie Eiswerth knew from the moment she became a Class A Ladies Professional Golf Association (LPGA) Teaching Professional that she wanted to become an active member within the LPGA Teaching and Club Professionals (T&CP) organization. Established in 1959, T&CP members make up the largest membership of women golf professionals in the world, dedicated to the advancement and teaching of golf.
Over 1,700 members teach anywhere from neighborhood golf courses to title-winning universities. They are the backbone of LPGA and PGA Tour major champions – and some are even Tour winners themselves. With regional and national programs, LPGA Teaching and Club Professionals are at the forefront of growing the game of golf for any generation.
And just like Tour players, they still have the itch to compete when given the chance. That is exactly what Eiswerth wanted to do in 2018 as she made her debut in the T&CP National Championship. The tournament, created in 1983, began as a means for members to compete on a national scale. It has now become a premier competitive destination for women golf professionals.
Eiswerth has tournament experience to boot; the 32-year-old earned medalist honors at the 2009 LPGA Sectional Qualifying Tournament, competed on the Symetra Tour from 2009-2016 and is now an Assistant Coach for the University of North Florida Women’s Golf team. She knew how to put aside any nerves and took charge of her play with a simple strategy in mind.
“Throughout last year’s championship, my focus was to keep making pars and give myself chances at birdies. I made a plan for the course and stuck to it during the entire tournament,” said Eiswerth. And it worked, tenfold. The T&CP “rookie” earned the victory at Pinehurst No. 8 after a clutch birdie putt on he second playoff hole against Seul-Ki Park and two-time LPGA Tour winner Jimin Kang.
Aside from a $100,000 purse, the tournament includes incentives based on high results. The top-eight finishers in the tournament’s Championship division earn exemptions into the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship, while the top-eight finishers and ties in the Senior division and any competitors over age 45 who finish in the top 10 in the Championship division qualify for the Senior LPGA Championship. Eiswerth’s win secured her spot in her second-ever appearance in an LPGA major championship at Hazeltine National Golf Club.
“The 2019 KPMG Championship was an amazing experience. Playing alongside the greatest players in the world is an excellent test,” said Eiswerth. “Hazeltine has such history with the many championships hosted there and it was an honor to be a part of it.”
Alison Curdt knows what it takes to make it to the major championship stage. An LPGA and PGA Master Professional as well as the LPGA T&CP Vice President, Curdt has qualified for the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship seven times as a teaching professional, thanks in part to her play at the T&CP National Championship.
The youngest to ever become a Master Professional, Curdt said she is blessed to have had opportunities at the highest level that have only aided in her teaching. “The lessons I learn while playing gives me credibility with my students, and I can relate to their experiences better,” added Curdt.
Next week, the event’s 32nd edition returns to Pinehurst No. 8 for the second consecutive year and the fifth time in event history. Jean Bartholomew, one of the most prolific T&CP National Championship winners, has experienced the growth of the tournament firsthand. Bartholomew, who played full-time on the LPGA until 2006, has captured four T&CP victories, including three consecutive from 2013-2015. She said the tournament has a special place in her heart.
“I am very proud to have won the National Championship four times. I never won on the LPGA tour my whole career. It is hard to win at any level so it feels good whenever it happens. It motivates me to win again,” said Bartholomew. “The tournament has grown since I started playing it, and there are lots of very good players now as well as former tour players. You have to play very well to win.”
Boasting a field of 117 T&CP members, this year’s national event is a testament to the drive of its teaching and club professional participants. Although only making her second appearance, Eiswerth, like Bartholomew and Curdt, is proud to be a part of the storied tradition of the T&CP National Championship.
“It is an opportunity for LPGA Teaching Professionals to play the game we love to teach. We gain valuable competitive experience that we can share with our students and our students can also cheer us on,” said Eiswerth. “The LPGA T&CP Championship showcases our members as not only great teachers, but great players as well.”