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By Craig Dolch, Special to the PGA of America
PORT ST. LUCIE, Fla. – Stephanie Connelly-Eiswerth of Fleming Island, Fla., made history Friday by becoming the first woman to win a PGA Tournament Series event in its 46-year history.
Connelly-Eiswerth shot a 4-under 67 in Event No. 1 on the Ryder Course at PGA Golf Club for a one-shot victory over Tyler Collet of John’s Island Club in Vero Beach. Connelly-Eiswerth made a 2-foot bogey putt on the final hole to clinch the win after Collet almost eagled No. 18 when his gap wedge from 127 yards stopped an inch away.
Connelly-Eiswerth’s approach shot at the 18th plugged into a greenside bunker. She blasted out to 15 feet and two-putted to place her name in the record books, much to her surprise.
“Oh, really? That’s cool!” said Connelly-Eiswerth, a PGA Teaching Professional at San Jose Country Club in Jacksonville. “There’s not many of us (women) playing in the PGA Tournament Series, but there’s been more lately. That’s really cool.
“It feels wonderful to win. I have finished second a lot this year.”
Connelly-Eiswerth finished at 10-under 132. Under PGA of America’s guidelines, women’s tees are set up at 83.7 percent of the men’s. At Event No. 1, the men played 6,702 yards, the women 5,614.
Collet shot the day’s low round – a 6-under 65 – but couldn’t catch the winner.
Connelly-Eiswerth was in position to win this year’s PGA Women’s Stroke Play Championship at PGA Golf Club when she led by three shots with three holes to play. But Sandra Changkija finished eagle-birdie-birdie to win by a shot.
“Sandra killed it that day,” Connelly-Eiswerth said. “It’s nice to get back down here. The courses are always in great condition. It’s nice to be able to play and have the green speed to just roll it and see it go in.”
Connelly-Eiswerth, 36, played the Epson Tour for seven seasons before coaching at the University of North Florida. She started teaching at San Jose Country Club two years ago.
She fired a bogey-free 65 Thursday to take a one-shot lead over Cal Elzey into the final round. She had two birdies on her first five holes Friday before a bogey at the par-5 sixth slowed her momentum.
But Connelly-Eiswerth birdied the eighth and 12th holes to regain a two-shot lead. She added birdies at the 14th and 17th holes to give her the needed cushion.
“I knew a lot of the guys would be out chasing,” she said. “There were definitely some opportunities to make birdies. I just said to keep chasing and play like I’m behind.”
Collet made seven birdies Friday, but his big mistake was making bogey on the par-5 17th hole. He laid up into a fairway bunker, left his third shot short and didn’t get up-and-down.
“I’ve probably made more bogeys on that hole than birdies,” Collet said. “I thought 10-under would have a chance, and I just came up one short.”
Elzey of Fort Wayne, Ind., shot 69 to finish tied for third at 7-under 135 with 2022 National Car Rental PGA Assistant Championship winner Domenico Geminiani (66) of Italy, Andrew Chi (66) of Flushing, N.Y., and Trevor Bensel (67) of Villanova, Pa.
The PGA Tournament Series is presented by GolfPass.
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