At Baltusrol Golf Club this week, none of the eight members of the Corebridge Financial PGA Team comprising PGA/LPGA Club and Teaching Professionals made it to the weekend of the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship. There would be no meteoric, magical Michael Block story that we were able to witness at last month’s PGA Championship at Oak Hill.
That’s not to say that all eight who competed left empty-handed, by any means. They head back to their day jobs across the country armed with the memories produced on one of the most tradition-rich golf venues in the land (Baltusrol’s Lower Course) and plenty of observations and learning moments to bring back to their students.
Loretta Giovannettone, with a name right out of “Moonstruck,” is 31, a PGA member who works in Outside Services at the Country Club of Florida. She had never played on anything close to a stage this big. (“I haven’t even played the Epson Tour,” she said.)
There she was on Friday, shooting 73. She birdied the 214-yard 16th, ripping a 3-wood to 9 feet and making the putt. She made another 9-footer for birdie at the final hole, hitting a wedge in tight. Even a day earlier, when she opened with 79, she saw enough to reaffirm that professional golf is a path she wants to pursue, more than ever.
Giovannettone was part of a national championship team at Division III Methodist University in 2012, where she also was part of the school’s PGA Golf Management program. She has tried competitive golf for a few years, but it’s expensive to play. A shift from teaching to outside services at her club allows her to work more on her game.
On Sunday, Giovannettone was headed to Texas for a Women’s All-Pro Tour event. She will take with her some great memories from Baltusrol.
“It was unbelievable. I’m very blessed, very fortunate, to be here,” she said. “Leading into this week, I was talking to my coach the other day, I wasn’t so sure I should be out here playing. That’s why I took an Outside Services position, so that I could focus on playing a little bit more, and I stepped away from the teaching roles.
“Even despite Thursday’s underwhelming score (79), I had my answer that night. I want to be out here. And shooting 73 (Friday) proved it even more. I’m thrill. That birdie on the last hole was the cherry on top. This was really big mentally for me, showing me that I can compete on this level.”
Stephanie Connelly-Eiswerth, PGA/LPGA Teaching Professional at San Jose Country Club in Jacksonville, Florida, and Joanna Coe, Director of Instruction at Merion Golf Club (Haverford, Pennsylvania) tied at 9-over 151. Coe posed for pictures afterward with her fellow competitors, Mariah Stackhouse and Maria Fassi. All smiles. Connelly-Eiswerth, who was under the weather but gutted it out for 36 holes, and Coe have plenty of experience in the KPMG Women's PGA Championship. Each was playing the event for a fifth time.
“They're great at what they do,” PGA of America President John Lindert said of the Corebridge Financial PGA Team at the outset of the week. “They instruct the game, they coach the game, and they can play the game."
Amy Reungmeteekhun, 31, was playing in her first KPMG Women's PGA Championship, and her second major. Her results weren’t quite what she wanted (she shot 79-87), but she reminded herself on Friday evening that playing golf competitively is not something she still does on a full-time basis, as she once did on the Symetra (now Epson) Tour. Amy R, as she is known, coaches a state-championship girls high school team in Texas (Ursuline Academy) and teaches at a facility called The Golf Ranch in Richardson, Texas.
This week was bigger than any golf scores she shot. Amy R had her younger brother, Jamie, on her bag for the week – his big sister always has been his role model – and her parents also were there to watch. Her dad, Wut, who is 61, even closed down the Thai restaurant that he runs outside of Dallas, taking three weeks off to travel east and watch his daughter play.
Amy’s best moment came well before the tournament ever started. She and her dad and her brother walked Baltusrol as she played a practice round on Sunday before the tournament, which was Father’s Day. “I haven’t been able to do that with him for a while,” she said.
Amy R said the girls from her golf team will have plenty of curiosity and questions for her when she gets home.
“Yeah, they’re super-supportive,” she said. “They knew that I played for a while and now I’m doing this more for fun, because I enjoy the game. Hopefully, they can see that good days happen, bad days happen, but I’m going to keep going.”
There was a time on Friday when Amy R was struggling in her round, with little going right. Wut approached her with some support. “Hey,” he told her, “it’s all right.”
Said Amy, the tears welling in her eyes, “That meant so much to me.”
Yes, for the Corebridge PGA Team at Baltusrol, the week transcended golf scores.