WALLINGFORD >> The Connecticut Women’s Amateur golf tournament had virtually been decided before Kelly Whaley teed it up in Wednesday’s final round.
Her lead stood at 13 shots after two rounds. The only thing left to be determined was whether Whaley would top her 16-stroke victory from a year ago.
Whaley “only” ended up winning by 14 shots this time around at The Farms Country Club, shooting a final-round 75. But at age 17, Whaley already owns three Women’s Amateur titles.
“I love representing Connecticut. I love this tournament,” Whaley said. “Three is a great number. It means a lot because it says something about you having that big a lead. Everyone was like ‘Have fun with it,’ but you want to have more. You want to go after it.”
In 2011, Whaley won her first Amateur championship by a stroke at Timberlin GC. She was just weeks away from beginning her freshman year at Farmington High.
Now she is set to begin her third year at the International Junior Golf Academy (IJGA) in Hilton Head, South Carolina. It’s a regimented schedule at the academy: school for five hours in the morning, golf in the afternoon, fitness work three times per week after golf and then homework from 7 p.m. until bedtime.
“You always get a little tired of it. Sometimes it’s like. ‘I don’t want to be here. It’s too much,’” Whaley said. “But overall, it’s been able to play every single day. So it’s been great. When I was younger, I liked it, but had no interest in trying to play on the (LPGA) Tour. And now after the years of improving, look at it as an option for the future.”
Had she not had to report to the IJGA before the 2012 Women’s Amateur was played, we could be talking about a four-peat. But the three titles puts her in the some select company. Lida Tingley, Liz Janangelo and Natalie Sheary have all won at least that many championships.
And of course, three years has allowed her game to mature. Her dad Bill, the former general manager at TPC River Highlands in Cromwell and now the TPC National Director of PGA Tour Golf Course Properties, had a front row seat this week, caddying all three rounds.
“She’s fitter, she’s taller, she’s stronger, she’s hitting maybe 40 yards further (than 2011),” Bill Whaley said. “Most importantly, she is mentally stronger. The ups and downs don’t affect her as much as when she was 14. She’s a much more complete player.”
Whaley will sign a national letter of intent this fall to play women’s golf at North Carolina. Her mom, Suzy, also went to school there before spending some time on the LPGA Tour and winning the 2002 Connecticut PGA Championship to earn a spot in the 2003 Greater Hartford Open.
Kelly’s older sister, Jenn, plays for the Quinnipiac women’s golf team.