Thursday, June 29, 2017

Hazel becomes first female player to compete in the Titleist and FootJoy PGA Pro Championship
When Hazel Kavanagh stepped up to the first tee at Luttrellstown Golf Club earlier this month, history was about to be made.
She confidently chose a driver and sent the ball flying down the opening fairway to become the first lady ever to play in the Titleist & Footjoy PGA Professional Championship.
The 44-year-old progressed through regional qualifying to book her place at the prestigious event.
She also plays and coaches at Carr Golf Centre, which is just a stone’s throw away from the scenic Luttrellstown Castle.
So it was fitting that Kavanagh should put her name in the history books on home soil.
“I was over the moon that I qualified for the PGA Professional Championship,” said Kavanagh.
“I was the first lady to make the cut in our own Irish PGA Championship in 2013 and I won the Irish Club Professional Championship the following year, so when I qualified for the Finals in Luttrellstown it was a massive honour.
“I got a lot of texts and messages on social media sending me congrats from people I didn't know and ladies I haven't heard from in a while. They were thrilled for me and for my achievements. 
“Hopefully my achievements will inspire other girls to join me next year and beyond.”
Kavanagh was not put off by being the only female player alongside 143 male participants.
The Dubliner performed admirably on the opening two days to make the cut, but the windy conditions and the lengthy Luttrellstown course took their toll as she finished 50th overall.
“I played so well the first two days and the two guys I played with were super, but the course was too long for me.
“I think I was mentally and physically drained after I made the cut. I have played on a lot of long courses on the European Tour but that was by far the longest and toughest I have ever played.
“I can understand why girls who turn pro roughly off a four handicap around the UK and Ireland don’t play in these tournaments.
“To play to par or break par you would need to be a super striker of the ball to carry the distances needed.  
“In fairness the guys found it a super and tough course too and that is all credit to Luttrellstown and the green staff.” 
Asked what she has learned from her first experience playing in the PGA Professional Championship, Kavanagh continued: “I need to practice to compete at a high level, gain a bit more distance and I will really look forward to playing next year in the Finals with a few ladies.”
Kavanagh got into golf at the age of 12 and she grew up learning from the likes of multiple major winner Padraig Harrington and 2014 Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley.
“They both grew up near me so I played a good bit of junior golf with Padraig and Paul is a member of my home club Grange Golf Club in Rathfarnham.
“When I look back now I never practiced as hard as they did. I was so impressed at them flying the flag for Ireland around the world.
“I have some regrets, it seemed that I played more than I practiced. I suppose that is something that I would change if I could turn back time.”
Despite her regrets, Kavanagh did manage to earn her place on the Ladies’ European Tour where she played on and off for ten years before joining the PGA.
“I really enjoyed it (the Tour) and I had some great weeks/months and some very tough times but it was all an amazing experience.
“The experience makes you stronger and I have been told it builds character.
“I entered the PGA degree course at the Belfry at a late age. I am thrilled that I completed the course and I have gained a lot from it.
“It is a great course of blended learning, meeting with the professionals and working on the ground."