Kim Paez became the first woman to capture the Southwest PGA Championship in its 66-year history.
Paez, who grew up in Long Beach and now lives in Peoria, Ariz., after playing at UC Irvine, beat 2022 PGA Professional champion Jesse Mueller of Phoenix by one stroke on the Cholla Course at We-Ko-Pa Golf Club in Fort McDowell, Ariz.
“This is just so special, almost unbelievable, and it really hasn’t sunk in yet,” said Paez, who is a Player Development Director for PING and a PGA Coach at Cave Creek Golf Club’s Reid West Academy in Sun City. “I am scared to pinch myself because I think I might still be sleeping from the night before. But this is so special to me because once I got my PGA Class A membership, I knew I wanted to do some big things as a PGA member and for our Southwest Section.
“When I signed up for this tournament, the goal was just to finish top five so I can qualify for the national PGA Professional Championship. I listed off all of the top dogs in the Section to see who I would be up against, and of course I knew Jesse would be there.
“I mean I totally think of him as the Tiger Woods of the Section.”
Paez, who won the 2008 Big West Conference Championship under her maiden name of Lorenzana while at UC Irvine, posted a score of 70-67-73—210, six-under-par, with a winning birdie on the 16th hole, while Mueller, an assistant coach at Grand Canyon University, finished second at 68-69-74—211.
Riley Hayfield of Scottsdale, Ariz., was fourth at 74-70-68—212, while Tony Rohlik of Mesa, Ariz., shot 71-73-69—213 to tie for fourth with Marty Jertson of Phoenix, who finished at 69-73-71—213, and Dennis Downs of Surprise, Ariz., who wound up at 72-65-76—213.
Michael Hopper of Glendale, Ariz., carded a score 75-71-68—214 to tie for seven with D.K. Kim of Phoenix, who finished at 73-70-71—214, while Jerry Smith of Scottsdale shot 70-74-71—215 to tie for ninth with Bobby Pancratz of Chandler, Ariz., who wound up at 71-72-72—215, and Dean Vomacka of Tucson, who came in at 72-70-73—215.
Paez earned won $9,000 for winning and gained a spot in the PGA Professional Championship next spring in Frisco, Texas. Paez became only the fourth female professional to win a Section Championship, joining Suzy Whaley (2002), Taylor Collins (2021) and Sandra Changkija (2022).
For complete results, visit: https://swpga.bluegolf.com/bluegolf/swpga24/event/swpga2495/contest/5/leaderboard.htm