It doesn’t happen very often, but at the PGA Section level it’s not unprecedented for a woman to win a section championship competing against men. Former PGA of America President Suzy Whaley did it in Connecticut in 2002, Taylor Collins won in South Florida in 2021, and Sanda Changkija won in North Florida in 2022.
Arizona’s Kim Paez recently became the fourth woman to join this exclusive club. Paez, 37, is the first woman to win the Southwest PGA Championship in the 66-year history of the event. On Sept. 13, Paez shot a 1-over 73 in the final round on the Cholla Course at We-Ko-Pa Golf Club just outside Scottsdale to finish with a 6-under total and a one-shot victory over Jesse Mueller, who bogeyed three of his last six holes.
“This is just so special, almost unbelievable and it really hasn’t sunk in yet” Paez told the Southwest PGA Section after her win.
With her win, Paez won $9,000 and earned a berth in the 2024 PGA Professional Championship. The winner of the section championship also gets an exemption into the PGA Tour’s WM Championship in Phoenix. However, because Paez followed the PGA of America guideline on distance for competitive women – they are allowed to play at 85 percent of the distance of the men – she will forgo that perk. And she is perfectly fine with that. Mueller, who played the final round at 7,211 yards and finished runner-up to Paez, will claim those exemptions.
Paez, who entered into the section championship for the first time, felt very good about her game going into the tournament. After screening the field of entries, she thought she could claim a top-five finish. She was excellently guided by her caddie, her husband Nick, an accomplished player in his own right who currently plays on the Asian Tour.
Clipping Mueller was quite an accomplishment. He is the 2022 PGA of America Professional Champion and is described by Paez as “the Tiger Woods of the Southwest Section.” He had already won the first two Southwest Section major championships of the year.
Mueller was very complimentary of Paez’s win, telling the Southwest PGA Section that “Kim has a nice game. She hits it straight and is a really nice putter. I am really proud of her to stand up to this field for three days and the course and to finish up on top.”
Paez’s journey to the PGA of America began when she was a youth. She played competitive junior golf in Southern California and earned a full scholarship to the University of California-Irvine. She enjoyed a solid career there, playing all four years and winning the 2008 Big West Conference Championship. Her team won the conference championship in each of her four years on campus.
After two attempts to qualify for what is now called the Epson Tour, she decided to make a career change.
“I figured that I would be spending more money than I would be making, so I decided to work instead,” she observed at the time.
Paez first went to work at Srixon Cleveland Golf and then became a customer service representative for Ping Golf. Currently, she serves as the player development manager at Ping. Her responsibilities include scouting elite junior players who might be interested in playing Ping clubs, as well as fitting those players. She also services Division I female players and college teams.
Teaching has been a part of Paez’s DNA since she graduated from college. Her first job in golf was coaching at the Los Angeles County Junior Golf Program. When her workday is done at Ping, she will drive over to Cave Creek Golf Course, where she works for the Reid West Academies as a teaching pro. She has entered into the PGA Teaching and Coaching program and has progressed to level three in the program.
Paez knows that her skill can be an inspiration to other female professionals and she says that “makes her heart full.” Perhaps that inspiration will expand that exclusive female section champions club she recently joined.
© 2023 Global Golf Post LLC
Top: Kim Paez won the Southwest PGA Championship in her first attempt. Zac BonDurant, Southwest PGA
We are sorry that this post was not useful for you!
Tell us how we can improve this post?