Local woman qualifies for LPGA major

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Shannon Handley qualifed for the 2007 McDonald's LPGA Championship. She teaches golf and works at the Steamboat Golf Club.

— Shannon Hanley remembers the goose bumps she had while standing on the first tee box at the 2002 LPGA Championship. With her brother caddying at her side, Hanley recalls the prestige of seeing her name on the leaderboard for the first five holes of an LPGA major.

Hanley, a Steamboat Springs resident, eventually missed the cut, but she'll get another opportunity in June at the 2007 McDonald's LPGA Championship.

"I'm so fired up," Hanley said about her chance to compete with Annika Sorenstam, Michelle Wie and the tour's other premier players.

Hanley qualified for the event after winning the LPGA Teaching and Club Professional Central Section Championship in late August in Trophy Club, Texas.

She received one of only six "golden tickets" given to the winners of the five Teaching and Club Professional sectional championships and the national champion.

Held at the Bulle Rock Golf Course in Havre de Grace, Md., the McDonald's LPGA Championship will signal a return for Hanley to the state where she honed her game - "back in the pre-Title IX days," she said.

There wasn't a high school golf team for Hanley, who grew up in Potomac, Md.

After college, she set her sights set on becoming a full-fledged, card-carrying member of the LPGA.

After four years at the LPGA's Tour School, unable to crack the top echelon to get her card, and stints on both the Ladies European and Asian tours, Hanley decided to focus on a career teaching the sport.

"I do it because I love teaching and I love the game," Hanley said. "Watching people improve their game, it's my passion."

She moved to Colorado to work as the director of instruction at Denver's Foothills Golf Course. Hanley then made her way to Routt County, accepting a position as a golf pro at Catamount Ranch & Club.

Now a Class A member of the LPGA's Teaching Professional Division, Hanley offers customized private lessons and works at the Steamboat Golf Club.

"Her coaching's great," said Beth Taylor. "She spends concentrated time with you on each thing she's teaching and really stresses chipping."

Taylor, captain of the Steamboat Golf Club team that won this season's Steamboat Women's Interclub Golf League, had nothing but praise for Hanley's ability to connect golfers through the creation of SWIGL three summers ago.

Although Hanley still coordinates SWIGL and is proud to have found a way to foster camaraderie between women golfers at Steamboat's four courses, her commitment is still on education.

Between working as the LPGA education coordinator for the 10-state central section and flying to Spearfish, S.D., to help coach at the college level, Hanley tries to find time for one thing - improving her own game.

When the snow starts falling in Ski Town USA this winter, Hanley will be in Florida, working on her short game, preparing for her next chance to tee it up with the world's best.

- To reach Dave Shively, call 871-4253 or e-mail dshively@steamboatpilot.com

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