Sponsor surprise turns golfer Kim Paez’s LPGA dreams into reality following recent success

Kim Paez, second from left, was surprised with a sponsor exemption that allowed her to compete in the inaugural LPGA Ford Championship in Gilbert. (Photo courtesy of LPGA)

GILBERT – After making history as the first female golfer to win the 2023 Southwest PGA Championship, Kim Paez is prepared to compete in her first LPGA tour event from the comfort of her own home state of Arizona. However, Paez didn’t know she had the chance to play until quite recently.

On March 7, Paez prepared herself for a meeting at PING’s Phoenix headquarters. As a player development director at PING and a PGA coach at Cave Creek Gold Club’s Reed West Academy, the meeting seemed routine at first, and she was given the impression that she was participating in a discussion promoting women’s golf during women’s history month.

“I honestly thought I was there for a women’s golf marketing meeting,” Paez said. “I had notes prepared, I did my research and there were women in the meeting that I have been in meetings with before so I thought it was really nothing new.”

Paez was mic’d up prior to stepping into the meeting room, and just a few moments later two individuals wearing Ford jackets interrupted to let Paez know that she would be receiving a sponsor exemption to compete in the Ford Championship at Seville Golf and Country Club in Gilbert, Arizona.

The tournament, which runs Thursday through Sunday, boasts a $2.25 million purse in its inaugural competition

“To know that a whole group of people went through all that effort just to throw a surprise for me, it was really special, something I’ll never take for granted,” Paez said.

Paez has been chasing the dream of playing on the tour ever since she was first introduced to the sport by her father at around the age of 10. Her progression in her game evolved quickly and eventually she received a scholarship to compete at the collegiate level at UC Irvine.

After graduating, Paez continued to compete in hopes of playing on the tour but soon altered her career trajectory in the industry by taking a job as a customer service representative at PING before working her way up to become a tour representative specializing in helping training and outfitting elite female amateurs.

Additionally, the COVID-19 pandemic gave Paez the opportunity to devote time toward the PGA program, where she got her class-A certification that has aided in her ability to coach youth players in Arizona.

“As a tour rep, a coach and a player, I hope to be that example that my junior girls can look up to,” Paez said. “I think when they see the possibilities of someone like me, I’m not an LPGA member, but the fact that I have these opportunities to play, I hope that really inspires and motivates them.”

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All of Paez’s experience in the manufacturing aspect of the sport has even made her a familiar face to other LPGA players who she has had the chance to connect with this tournament after recently fitting them for clubs, including Karis Davidson, Robyn Choi, and others.

“It’s funny when they see me, and I’m like ‘Oh hi, how are your clubs doing,’” Paez said with a laugh.

Apart from this connection to other golfers, Paez can feel a little more at ease on the course knowing that she shares a particularly special bond with her caddie, Nick.

He just so happens to be her husband.

“He does a great job of just keeping the vibe light,” Paez said. “He’ll crack jokes every once in a while.”

Even before Paez’s 10 a.m. press conference on Wednesday, Nick was quick to poke fun at the white undershirt that his wife was wearing, mentioning that it made her look like she had no arms on camera in front of the white backdrop inside of the media tent.

The smile on Paez’s face was enough to convey the calming effect of her partner.

“He’s the one person I trust most with my game,” Paez said. “He knows it better than anyone. Sometimes I feel like he knows my game better than I do.”

The two have been together since 2010, and during that time Nick has tried his best to supply her with “the best information possible.” After all those years together, Nick believes that there is one particular aspect of Paez’s game that has improved the most over time.

“From when we started dating to now, she’s made a lot of good changes in her golf swing,” Nick said. “She’s played most of her golf rounds with me and practiced with me a lot of the time, so I get to see a lot of it.”

In addition to having a trustworthy caddie, Paez also feels that playing in the state where she resides definitely eases stress levels during the anticipation of the weekend’s action.

“I’m here to play golf in my home state of Arizona. ‘It’s nothing new’ is what I’m trying to tell myself,” Paez said. “I’m just here to chase that golf ball around the course.”

Sports Reporter, Phoenix

Maxwell Williams expects to graduate in Spring 2026 with a bachelor’s degree in sports journalism and a minor in Spanish linguistic studies. Williams has written for the East Valley Tribune.