Taylor Collins of Fort Lauderdale made history Thursday by becoming the first woman to win the South Florida PGA Professional Championship in the tournament’s 42-year history.
Collins, a PGA Assistant Professional at Coral Ridge Country Club in Fort Lauderdale, shot 72 on BallenIsles’ vaunted East Course to win by four shots at 8-under 208. She started the day with a two-shot lead and steadily pulled away.
“To be the first woman to win the South Florida PGA Section Championship is incredible,” Collins said. “I thought about it a little yesterday, but I had to stop thinking about it. If I think about it now, I might start crying. It’s always great to beat the guys and show how the girls can play, as well. This gives me new goals to set, and I’ll have this sitting there forever.”
The 32-year-old Collins earned $7,500 from a record $90,000 purse. Under South Florida PGA rules, women play 81 percent of the men’s distance (6,997 yards).
There was a playoff between second-place finishers Alan Morin (70-212) of The Club at Ibis and Austin Davenport (74-212) of Dye Preserve for the Puerto Rico spot, which Morin won with a par on the first extra hole.
By finishing tied for second, the 52-year-old Morin also clinched his 11th Player of the Year Award in the South Florida PGA, which earns him a spot in next year’s Honda Classic. He closed with a 3-under 33 on the back nine.
“Winning Player of the Year was the farthest from my mind this year, but I started playing well so I kept trying,” Morin said. “These young guys are so good and they hit it much farther than I do. But I’m still able to hang with them. “The Puerto Rico invite was a bonus. I wasn’t even thinking about that.”
Andrew Filbert, a PGA Assistant Professional at West Bay, shot a 7-under 65 – the low round of the week – to improve from 36th place to a fourth-place tie with Troy Pare (69-213) of Grand Harbor Beach & Golf Club.
“I took care of the par-5s,” said Filbert, who played them in 4-under with two birdies and an eagle. “I stayed patient out there.”
Collins won the Division II national individual title when she played at Nova Southeastern in Davie. She also won Golf Channel’s Big Break Mexico in 2013 and played briefly on the LPGA Tour and Symetra Tour. But after she was diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis, she shifted her career to teaching.
“I’ve been playing competitive golf my entire life,” Collins said. “It’s nice to have another level of competition.”
The top 12 players earned spots in next year’s PGA Professional Championship April 17-20 at Omni Barton Creek Resort & Spa in Austin, TX. Patrick Rada and Tyler Collet are exempt because they qualified for this year’s PGA Championship.
Also earning spots to the national tournament were Justin McCarraher (71-286) of Fiddlesticks, Collet (71-214) of John’s Island Club, Steven Vecellio (71-214) Frenchman’s Reserve, Michael Valicenti (72-214) of Mayacoo Lakes, Jason Martin (76-214), Matt Cahill (70-216) of Seminole, Justin Ahasic (73-216) of Synergy Golf, Kenneth Leech (72-216) of Don Law Academy. Brett Melton (73-217) of Melton Golf Academy is first alternate.
BallenIsles’ East Course has been the scene of much history. Jack Nicklaus won the 1971 PGA there, as well as teaming with Lee Trevino to win the World Series of Golf. It also hosted the PGA Tour’s q-school in ‘71 that produced Hall of Famers Tom Watson and Lanny Wadkins, as well as John Mahaffey and Bruce Fleisher.
The South Florida PGA Senior Section Championship is presented by Club Car, Cadillac and Rolex. Supporting partners are Titleist/FootJoy, Nike, TaylorMade, Golf Channel, PGA Tour, Biolyte, DLL, Links and Leisure, Whistling Straits and Winner’s Award Group.
Collins is the first female to ever win this event. She earns a spot to the National PGA Professional Championship.
Low female in the field is Taylor Collins, PGA of Coral Ridge Country Club at eight-under par. This round shot her 32 strokes up the leaderboard and into a qualifying spot for the National PGA Professional Championship.
Alan Morin, PGA beat Austin Davenport in a playoff to secure the bid to the Puerto Rico Open. Morin also secures Player of the Year honors and a bid to the Honda Classic.
Overall, 178 PGA Professionals from across south Florida competed in the event.