Kim Paez became the first woman to win the Southwest PGA Championship in the 66-year history of the event. A former Big West Conference champion at the University of California-Irvine, Paez shot 1-over 73 in the final round on the Cholla Course at We-Ko-Pa Golf Club on Wednesday to finish with a 6-under total and a one-shot victory over Jesse Mueller, who bogeyed three of his last six holes.
She won $9,000 for her efforts and a spot in the PGA Professional Championship next spring in Frisco, Texas. Paez becomes only the fourth female professional to win a Section Championship, joining Suzy Whaley (2002), Taylor Collins (2021) and Sandra Changkija (2022).
“This is just so special, almost unbelievable, and it really hasn’t sunk in yet,” Paez told SWPGA. “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.”
A PGA Player Development Director for Ping, Paez was making her debut in the championship after earning membership last December. Females participating in PGA Section Championships play setups that are 85 percent of the men’s yardage. On the final day of the championship, the men’s yardage was 7,211 yards.
While the winner of the Southwest PGA Championship traditionally earns an exemption into the WM Phoenix Open, a PGA Tour rule stipulates that a player must play from the back tees to be eligible, according to the SWPGA release.
Runner-up Mueller instead received the exemption into the Phoenix Open, which will take place Feb. 8-11 at TPC Scottsdale (Arizona). Mueller competed in both the 2018 and 2021 Phoenix Open.
“Kim has a nice game,” said Mueller. “She hits it straight and is a really nice putter. She really rolls it, which you can tell the minute she hits it, she’s a good putter. I’m very proud of her to stand up to this field for three days and the course to finish up on top. It is really great for her.”