Paolozzi ties for 7th at PGA Pro

June 30, 2016

VERONA, N.Y. - Former Madison golfer Karen (Dennison) Paolozzi carved out another chunk of golfing history Wednesday by becoming the first woman ever to finish in the top 10 of the PGA Professionals Championship. Paolozzi, now 33 and an assistant professional at Druid Hills Golf Club in Atlanta, played a rock-steady final round at Turning Stone Resort to close out the 72-hole tourney with a 2 under 70 and finish at 5 under 283 - just six strokes off the winner and tied for seventh overall. That’s not only the best finish ever by a woman - a 42-place improvement over her then-record 49th-place tie in 2014 - but a performance that would have been coveted by all but six men in the 312-player field. Rich Berberian, a 28-year-old PGA assistant professional at Windham Country Club in Derry, N.H., birdied the final hole to shoot 11 under 277 and win the tournament by a stroke over second and third round leader Omar Uresti and Mark Brown. Outside of that fight for the win was a battle for a top-20 finish and one of 20 automatic bids to next month’s PGA Championship. Based on the fact that Paolozzi was not eligible for one of those bids since she opted to play the tourney from the women’s tee boxes, a seven-man playoff over four holes was needed to decide the final qualifier. Paolozzi said she never considered playing the event from the longer men’s championship tees where she likely would have been a huge disadvantage against the longer hitting men. So when she birdied three of her final seven holes - that after opening her final round with 11 straight pars - her birdie on 18 left her tied for seventh and eligible for a nice paycheck if not a spot in one of the golf’s four majors. “It feels good to finish with a couple of birdies there,” Paolozzi told PGA.com. “I came into this week just wanting to make the cut. I had no expectations of finishing this high. This was just thrilling.” Previously, the best finish in the PGA Professional by a woman was Paolozzi’s tie for 49th in her first trip to the event in 2014. She not only lowered that record but also ties Suzy Whaley (2002, 2005) for the most trips ever to the PGA Professional by a woman. “This was incredibly satisfying,” Paolozzi said. “If you had told me before the week started that I was going to finish in the top 10, I probably would have doubted you. I know I left several shots out there as all of us do. But I’m extremely happy with finishing strong and finishing in that top 10. I’m really, really excited about that. I was an All-American at Indiana and that was probably the highlight of my golf career so far, but this is right up there and right behind that.” Paolozzi’s strong finish this week comes during a busy summer of golf that already includes her second consecutive trip to the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship earlier this month at Sahalee Country Club in Sammamish, Wash., and a spot in a Symetra Tour event at Atlanta National Golf Club in May in addition to her teaching and women’s league coordination duties back at Druid Hills Golf Club. She said playing competitively is important to her and it should be for other women as well and she hopes to inspire more women to not only play but compete. “Playing in this in 2014 and playing in the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship the last two years has prepared me for the bigger stage, so I definitely think that has really helped,” she said. “My entire goal with all this is to inspire other women to give it a shot out here. I have fun playing, but I want to get more women out here playing and competing - playing in their section events and making their way up.”