Category - Member Events
Paez Makes History as First Woman to Win Southwest PGA Section Championship
Kim Paez with Southwest PGA Vice President Le Ann Finger. (Zac BonDurant/Southwest PGA)
“When I signed up, the goal was just to finish top five so I can qualify for the national PGA Professional Championship,” recalls Paez. “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 laughs.
Kim had her husband, Nick, on the bag for the championship, who is currently on the Asian Tour and an excellent player.
“He is familiar with my strengths and my weaknesses,” Paez says. “We worked a lot on wedges, putting, and confidence to prepare for this event. I always struggled with confidence and comparing myself to other players when I played college golf at UC Irvine. Nick really helps me focus on me and what I can control.”
“I still had the mindset of hoping to finish top-five after day one,” Paez remembers. “I was proud of myself because I did exactly what I wanted to do. Every single shot I would say ‘committed’ in my head before I took the club back. I didn’t let myself feel hesitant before any shots.”
Paez consulted with her mentor and fellow PGA Professional Kevin Compare before the championship and he gave her wise words.
“If you focus on the results, you will be fearful. If you focus on the process, you will be fearless.”
“Nick helped me with course management,” Paez says. “I was not hitting it as well as I did on the first day. You would not believe how hard I had to work for some of those pars."
“When I was at scoring, the scorer said, ‘Okay, Kim, a 67 today?’ And she could tell by my face I had no idea that is what I shot," Paez notes. "I had no idea that this score put me in the final group and tied for the lead. I was in my shot-by-shot mode."
The final round of the 66th Southwest PGA Championship started with some rain showers, but ended with sunshine for Paez.
“On the drive to the course, Nick said, ‘We’re still just wanting to do top five, right?’ And that meant a lot to hear,” Paez remembers. “It was taking some pressure off myself.”
Throughout the final round, Paez and Mueller were going back and forth with the lead. Whenever she was behind, she reminded herself to stick to her game plan and just focus on herself.
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Paez noticed that Mueller had a club in his hand that signaled he was going for the green in two on the difficult par 5.
Both players made par to head into the final hole with Paez in the lead.
“We had to wait on the 18th tee for a while, and it was like I was marinating in my nervousness,” Paez says.
“After a lot of deliberation, Nick finally said, ‘Full send,’ and I pounded my drive over the bunker on the left,” Paez says, “I even let out a grunt when it was in the air.”
Eventually, Paez and her playing partners made their way to the putting surface, where both her and Mueller had long birdie putts.
“I putted first," Paez recalls. "I just took two deep breaths before I lagged it to the hole, and left myself an easy tap-in.”
“There were a bunch of pros waiting to congratulate me off of the green,” Paez says. “I remember getting teary-eyed and being so proud of myself.”
Kim is now the fourth woman to win her respective Section Championship along with Suzy Whaley in 2002 (Connecticut), Taylor Collins in 2021 (South Florida) and Sandra Changkija in 2022 (North Florida). She'll head to Frisco, Texas, and Fields Ranch at PGA Frisco for the 204 PGA Professional Championship next spring alongside six other Southwest PGA Members.
She became a PGA Member this past December, and has hit the ground running ever since.
“I’m so proud to be a PGA Member. I went to Q-School twice and it didn’t work out,” Paez says. “I still have these incredible opportunities to compete as a PGA Member and it means the world to me.”