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Dottie Pepper backs Suzy Whaley opponent in PGA election

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If Suzy Whaley is to take the next step toward becoming the PGA of America’s first woman president -- winning the election for secretary -- she’ll have to do it without the backing of Dottie Pepper.

Doug Pensinger

Suzy Whaley’s road to becoming the first woman PGA of America president may be littered with a few potholes, as the most visible name on this month’s ballot for secretary of the organization has serious competition for the post viewed as a steppingstone to the top job.

Dottie Pepper, the only woman on the association’s board of directors, which voted to oust former president Ted Bishop in the wake of the firestorm sparked by his social media remarks, has come out in favor of Russ Libby for the secretary position.

Prior to the Bishop furor, Pepper declined to comment about Whaley’s chances of winning the election, which will take place at this month’s annual meeting. On Monday, the former LPGA Tour star and current ESPN golf analyst shared her reasons for publicly acknowledging her backing.

"The timing is merely because the election is in its closing stages, just 19 days until the vote is taken," Pepper told SB Nation in an email. "Candidates post endorsements and try to gain momentum in the closing stretches, whether it is for a government office or for an election such as this. The other candidates are doing the same."

Bishop referred last week to Pepper as a friend who urged him to get out in front of the mess he made with his ill-advised Twitter and Facebook jabs at Ian Poulter. The 17-time LPGA winner, who quit full-time TV broadcasting to devote herself to the PGA, elucidated on her choice for the office of secretary.

"As far as ‘why Russ?,’ I put great effort into my written endorsement and those words truly are my reasons for backing him: collaboration, credentials, skills and experience at every level," she said. "I don't take this process lightly and even attended the Atlanta Super Regional for 3 days in late April. I simply believe Russ is the right person for the position."

Whaley, the first woman to qualify for a PGA Tour event in 58 years when she played in the 2003 Greater Hartford Open, has been considered the favorite for the secretary post.

During an initial media blitz, Whaley denounced Bishop’s online comments as "insulting and sexist." A few days later, as many in the golf community defended Bishop’s overall PGA record, Whaley continued to support the board’s decision but clarified her views about the former president’s legacy.

"I worked with him for three years; he has two daughters; he has a great family; he’s worked hard to make golf ‘inclusive,'"  Whaley said to Golfweek. "There’s no doubt in my mind that Ted is not sexist."

Whaley declined to opine for SB Nation about why so many other women in the golf industry had remained mum on Bishop’s poor choice of words but told Golfweek she understood their silence.

"I think [women in the PGA] are trying to balance and understand," she said. "They know Ted as a PGA member and what he has done, how he’s brought initiatives to make golf inclusive. They know him as a person, and they know he’s not sexist."

In addition to Connecticut-based Whaley, and Libby, who’s from Florida, the other candidate for PGA secretary is Michael Haywood of Arizona.