Each week, we discuss how money is made and spent in the golf industry. This episode, we’re going to talk about that, but also examine the areas that aren’t getting as much attention, but should be.

The following excerpt has been edited for space. Check out the full interview here.


Alyson Johnson: As a teacher, a playing professional, an industry leader, a mom of girls and a niece who are now entering the space as players, you’ve experienced so much; but I have to ask, what it was like to play on the PGA Tour against the guys and being amongst the very first (women) to do that?

Suzy Whaley: That was a while back right but I remember it like it was yesterday. My kids were really little, they were eight and six when I did that. I was working full-time- as you mentioned- as a head golf professional, my husband was working full-time, and in the meanwhile, I was just going to try to play against the best male golfers in the world in front of 40 million people. All I can say is, I’m so thankful social media was not a thing in 2003 because I can only imagine what I would have seen on social in regards to that, but I loved participating in it. I had an unbelievable amount of support. My team at work took over most of my responsibilities so I could practice and play. I was working out three hours a day first thing in the morning- 4:30 in the morning- to try to get in the best physical shape I could. I wanted to play well. 

I played the best round of golf there, I think in my career; not score wise, but for the yardage I was playing and the circumstances I was under. I’m super proud of the way I played. So it was an amazing two days, where I was accepted by most of the PGA Tour professionals- they knew why I was there, they knew it was an opportunity, that I had to show my daughters, that I would take the risk, I would work my tail off to be as prepared as I could, and hold my head high no matter the outcome. I ended up beating a few of them which was even better.

Adam Grubb: The age your daughters were at the time, do you wish they were a little bit older to fully appreciate what was happening with their mom? Or were you happy that they were in that young, innocent age? Do you wish that they were a little older to fully comprehend what you were accomplishing?

Suzy Whaley: My daughters were just used to me playing with men. I was a member of the PGA of America, but every week I played in local events against men. So they knew there was something going on because there were constantly cameras at my house, and I was constantly doing interviews, and they were being picked up from school by friends; so you know their perception of what was going on was, “Oh yeah, my mom’s going to play in this cool golf tournament.” My oldest, who was eight at the time, we were reading a story, it was about opportunity and being brave and taking risk, and she looked right at me and asked me why I wasn’t playing and I said, “Well, you know I’m going to play,” and this was in the end of November, I had qualified in September and I still hadn’t said yes. I walked downstairs and I said to my husband, “We’re in. We just read this story and I told her how important all that was, and she called me out, so we’re in.”

Alyson Johnson: One of the things that came up during the pandemic was that the women on the LPGA Tour were able to play in qualifying tour events, as well as Symmetra Tour events. My take on that was, “that shouldn’t be happening, that’s like a Yankees player going down and playing Triple A.” We all know there’s an incredible amount of disparity of playing opportunities to begin with for the girls, that those are really valuable spots and so when I said that to you, you were like, “hold on, you don’t have the full picture.”

Suzy Whaley: Yeah, and you can imagine where I sit, it’s personal for us. I have a daughter desperately trying to get opportunities to tee it up, and so you weren’t wrong- it doesn’t feel right when you have an LPGA Tour member, who has full status, playing on the Cactus Tour or the WAPT Tour or the Symmetra Tour. You think for a second and go, “Why is that? Why are you doing that and taking away this opportunity for the younger players?” However, I look at it a little differently. I think what the world needs to acknowledge and realize in the business space of the game is that Women’s golf does not have the opportunity, and during COVID, there was nowhere for the LPGA Tour players to make a living. They don’t have the kind of backing that a PGA Tour player has to survive a year of no revenue. They’re not employees of the LPGA, they are independent contractors- they do not get a salary like many other sports do. To be on a team or to be a competitor in the space, what they earn is what they make. If they don’t play, there is no paycheck.

So, I fully understand why an LPGA Tour player would want to get reps in, would want to go to the Cactus Tour- it’s not just to play better, it’s to make a living. I always say to my daughter, if you were on the LPGA Tour, you would be playing to make money. So don’t condemn those that are trying to earn a living.

Watch the rest of the interview here to learn more about the importance of the PGA to the game of golf, and how powerhouse Suzy Whaley is leading the organization.