RODRIGUEZ TAKES HOME TITLE AT KINGSMILL RESORT
In her first LPGA Professionals National Championship presented by Voice Caddie appearance, Alisa Rodriguez (Austin, Texas) earned the Championship division title, shooting a final-round 70 to finish at 5-under overall. Rodriguez made the turn tied for first with first-round leader Allie Knight (Knoxville, Tenn.), but two birdies on Nos. 15 and 16 helped her secure the victory.
“I was definitely a little nervous teeing off. Just couldn’t make putts at first – had a lot of good looks and just nothing was going in, and eventually made some on the back, so that was a huge push,” said Rodriguez. “Allie was playing amazing golf. She had three birdies on the front nine and I wasn’t making anything, so I was just trying to stay patient and stick to my game plan: don’t try to do anything that I hadn’t been doing this whole week. And it paid off.”
Rodriguez, a teaching professional at Balcones Country Club, is looking forward to returning to the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. The top-eight finishers in the Championship division earned exemptions into the 2022 KPMG PGA Women’s Championship, to be held June 21-26 at Congressional Country Club in Bethesda, Md. “I teach a lot of juniors and everyone honestly, so I know they’ll be excited to see me on TV again,” said Rodriguez.
Knight finished in solo second at -3, with defending champion Stephanie Connelly Eiswerth, LPGA/PGA (Fleming Island, Fla.) finishing alone in third.
TICKETS PUNCHED TO CONGRESSIONAL
Along with Rodriguez, Knight and Connelly Eiswerth, the rest of the Championship division’s top eight have earned their spots in the 2022 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship at Congressional Country Club: Sandra Changkija (Kissimmee, Fla.), Ashley Grier (Villanova, Pa.), Jennifer Borocz (Jacksonville, Fla.), Ashley Tait (Morrison, Colo.) and Meaghan Francella (Wilmington, Del.)
Rodriguez, Knight, Grier, Connelly Eiswerth and Changkija all competed in the 2021 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship at Atlantic Athletic Club after finishing in the top eight at last year’s PGA Women’s Stroke Play Championship at PGA Golf Club in Port St. Lucie, Fla. The 2020 LPGA Professionals National Championship was canceled due to COVID-19.
Borocz last appeared in the major championship in 2020. Francella, a former Tour player who won the 2007 MasterCard Classic after defeating Annika Sorenstam in a playoff, will be making her first start in the KPMG Women’s PGA as an LPGA Professionals member. She last appeared in the major in 2013, where she missed the cut. She recorded her career-best result in the event in 2010, a tie for seventh. Tait will be competing in her first major championship.
“It’s going to be really good to play another major championship. Each one is special; they’re all a little bit different. Hopefully next year we’ll be able to have some friends and family come out, but I’m really excited to go back,” said Connelly Eiswerth, who will be competing in her third-straight KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. “The experience is just something you can’t explain until you get to do it yourself, but it’s really fun to experience that with family and friends and students back home.”
HIRST WINS FOURTH-CONSECUTIVE CHALLENGE DIVISION TITLE
With her daughter Allie on the bag, Charlaine Hirst (Pinehurst, N.C.) went wire-to-wire at the LPGA Professionals National Championship presented by Voice Caddie to win her fourth-straight Challenge division title.
“It’s very exciting and it’s hard to believe,” said Hirst, an LPGA Professional and LPGA*USGA Girls Golf Site Director at the Country Club of Whispering Pines. “Five days is a lot of golf. I’m not used to playing this many days in a row, but I just hung in there today. I had a great group, we kind of encouraged each other along, and we just had a lot of fun.”
“[Being a four-time champion] sounds great, I’ll take it and run,” she joked. This trophy might feel a little sweeter knowing her daughter helped Hirst secure the victory. “She might have to come back next year. I think she got to appreciate what I do because she doesn’t do a lot of golf. She does our Girls Golf program. She has fun doing just that little bit, and now she got to experience kind of at a high level of what it takes to be up here. It’s fun, it was great to have her.”
Lieschen Wienke (Bloomington, Ill.) took home solo second, with Louise Ball (Knoxville, Tenn.), and Stephanie Peareth (Homestead, Fla.) finishing in third and fourth, respectively.
DANCKAERT WINS FIRST SENIOR DIVISION TITLE
Tonya Danckaert (Atlanta, Ga.) fired a final-round 66, the low round of the week, to win the Senior division. Competing in her first LPGA Professionals National Championship presented by Voice Caddie, Danckaert was pleasantly surprised with her bogey-free round on the final day and was extremely excited about her victory.
“It was my first time here, so I’m just really excited to be here. Kingsmill was such a good place to have this,” said Danckaert. “It’s one of only a few times I’ve [shot a bogey-free round], so it’s huge, I can’t believe it. I don’t think I’ve even been in contention for a tournament since maybe college. I’m still just in shock. I’m not sure what happened today, but it was great. I had one of my oldest friends here caddying for me, and it was awesome to have him with me all three days. We just had a lot of fun out there.”
Danckaert, lead instructor at the Grand Slam Golf Academy at Bobby Jones Golf Course, is celebrating her win by flying up to Brooklawn Country Club in Fairfield, Conn. to compete in the 2021 U.S. Senior Women’s Open. “I’m going to play in my first one. I just turned 50 at the end of November so all of this is new. It’s kind of still weird to think I’m playing in Senior division stuff, but it’s pretty cool so far. I’m excited that I don’t have to try and qualify for next year’s U.S. Senior Women’s Open now.”
The 2018 Senior division winner, Barbara Moxness (Rio Verde, Ariz.), finished in solo second. Four-time LPGA Professionals National Champion Jean Bartholomew (Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.), who won her first title at Kingsmill Resort in 2009, finished in third. The top-eight finishers in the Senior division qualify for the 2022 Senior LPGA Championship presented by Old National Bank as well as any competitors over age 45 who finish in the top 10 in the Championship division. Additionally, the top-five finishers in the Championship division and top-three finishers in the Senior division at least 50 years of age qualify for the 2022 U.S. Senior Women’s Open.
DEBRA PINNELL WINS SHIRLEY SPORK SUPER SENIOR CHAMPION
At the conclusion of the LPGA Professionals National Championship presented by Voice Caddie, Debra Pinnell was awarded the Shirley Spork Super Senior Champion trophy, presented to the lowest scorer age 70 or older.
“I had no idea that this would happen, but I’m really excited,” said Pinnell. “I’m happy to be 70, happy to be here at the tournament, and it’s just really exciting to have this special award at the end. I couldn’t believe it, it’s awesome.”
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.
“It really means a lot to receive [this award] from such a great champion,” added Pinnell. “I met Shirley a long time ago when I played on Tour. She was just getting off the Tour and would come out occasionally to watch, coach some of the girls and give clinics. I don’t know her really well, but I just know what a wonderful person she is and how generous she is. I’m so happy she’s still so involved with golf and I really appreciate it. Thank you, Shirley – you’re awesome!”
The 2022 LPGA Professionals National Championship presented by Voice Caddie is slated to return to Kingsmill Resort on August 28-31.
Alisa Rodriguez (1, -5) on getting to compete at Congressional Country Club for the 2022 KPMG Women’s PGA Championship:
“Honestly I’m just so excited to go back and just have a chance to play a major again. I actually went to Congressional when my uncle lived up there and we went and saw Tiger play, so that was so cool. To go back and play myself is going to be an awesome experience.”
Alisa Rodriguez (1, -5) on competing at Kingsmill Resort:
“It’s been amazing. I played with some amazing ladies, made some new friends. It’s just a great event. It’s so cool that we got to play Kingsmill. It was amazing, I’m just so happy.”
Ashley Tait (T7, +2) on qualifying for the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship for the first time:
“I’ve worked my whole life to get to an LPGA tournament and I feel like I grinded through Symetra and it never happened for me. And then this is my first year playing in the LPGA Professionals National Championship and sure enough, it worked out. So, I’m beyond excited.”
Charlaine Hirst (1, +12) on what she’ll take home to her students:
“As an LPGA Professional, I am building the next generation of golfers. I hope my students learn perseverance, coming out and knowing that no matter where you are in your game, there’s always another shot around the corner, a better shot. You might hit something that you don’t expect to hit, and you just have to keep fighting on. Just encourage each other.”