Six KGA Players of the Year Announced
LOUISVILLE, KY (November 4, 2019) - The 2019 tournament season for the Kentucky Golf Association has come and gone. The final season of the decade was highlighted by spectacular golf, exciting finishes, a stellar list of host venues, and exemplary sportsmanship representing the core of golf in Kentucky. With all events now completed, the time has come to recognize this year’s Player of the Year recipients. This title comes with a plaque that will be awarded to each individual at the Kentucky Golf Hall of Fame induction on Thursday, November 14 at Big Spring Country Club.
Andy Roberts is the recipient of the John Owens Player of the Year, the most coveted award of all. Roberts was a force to be reckoned with throughout 2019 as he contended in every tournament he entered. While his only first-place finish was as a joint-champion in the Amateur Series event at Bowling Green Country Club, Roberts’ year was highlighted by competing in the US Amateur Four-Ball Championship in Oregon, finishing third in the Clark’s Pump-N-Shop Kentucky Amateur at Country Club of Paducah, and finishing runner-up in the Clark’s Pump-N-Shop Kentucky Mid-Amateur at University Club of Kentucky.
“My ball-striking was more consistent from tournament to tournament this year and became something I could rely on,” Roberts said. “I gave myself opportunities to win the Kentucky Amateur, KGA Match Play Championship and Kentucky Mid-Amateur. In years past when I won Player of the Year it was in large part to winning the Kentucky Open in 2010 or the Kentucky Amateur in 2016. This year it was about capturing a large amount of points at each event. In 2020 I hope to pick up where I left off and get back into contention in some bigger events. I would like to qualify for some USGA events next year.”
Martha Leach continues an impressive run as the KGA Women’s Player of the Year, adding to her run of winning the award. Leach’s rise to the top of the standings was supported by her consistent playing in USGA national competitions. This year, Leach competed in the US Senior Women’s Open in North Carolina, the US Senior Women’s Amateur in Iowa and the US Women’s Mid-Amateur in Arizona. Leach made deep runs in the latter two events, reaching the Round of 16 at the US Women’s Mid-Amateur and the quarterfinals in the US Senior Women’s Amateur.
For the Herbie McGuire (Mid-Senior) Player of the Year award, Davis Boland will take the honor. Boland was a winner at the KGA Amateur Series Championship at Kearney Hill in September, finished as runner-up in the Mid-Senior Division at the Clark’s Pump-N-Shop Kentucky Mid-Amateur and came in third place at the KGA Team Championship along with partner Joshua Rhodes at Big Spring Country Club Inc. – Harmony Landing Campus.
“This was a weird year in that I did not play in very many tournaments,” Boland said. “I have to work on my short game this winter so I can contend with the young guys next year. There is so much talent in Kentucky on all levels of competition that you cannot just show up and compete. We have multiple players in the USGA’s national championships every year, so everyone has to step up their game. I am excited to work on improving my game this winter and competing next season.”
The Tom Musselman Award (players aged 50-59) goes to Scott Ray. Ray’s year was highlighted by being the top finisher in the Clark’s Pump-N-Shop Kentucky Senior Amateur at Bellefonte Country Club, but he also finished as runner-up in the KGA Senior Team Championship at Winchester Country Club, the KGA Amateur Series Championship and the KGA Team Championship’s Senior Division. The big year for Ray translated into a runaway in the standings, with Ray topping his nearest challenger by nearly five-hundred points.
“My consistency off the tee was the biggest part of my golf game this year,” Ray explained. “I drove the ball much better than I have in years past. Winning the Kentucky Senior Amateur for the second time in three years against an excellent field will stand out to me most about the year. The goal for me is to always improve each season but winning the Kentucky Senior Team Championship with Buddy Bryant would be great since we have finished in second place the last two years.”
Gary Backlund has won the Dale Barnstable Award (players aged 60-69) after a year full of racking up victories. Backlund was atop the pack eight different times in 2019, most notably at the Clark’s Pump-N-Shop Kentucky Mid-Amateur’s Masters Division and the Kentucky Team Championship’s Masters Division. All in all, there was only one tournament this season where Backlund did not finish in a tie for first at the minimum, being the KGA Amateur Series event at Eagle Trace Golf Course.
“Off the tee I did a very good job keeping my ball in play which enabled me to hit a lot of greens each round,” Backlund exclaimed. “I am most proud of my Kentucky Senior Match Play victory. It was a very good few days with a round of 67 in the qualifying round and then winning four matches against some very fine players. My goals for the coming year are to continue my consistent play and maintain or increase my distance. Getting older has taken yards off my drives and irons I would like to reclaim, so I am going to work out over the winter and come back stronger.”
Wrapping up the KGA Players of the Year is Elmo Greer, who wins the Don Smith Award (players aged 70 and over). Greer found himself in the winner’s circle three times this year, beginning with the Clark’s Pump-N-Shop Kentucky Amateur’s Legends Division, the KGA Amateur Series event at Bowling Green Country Club and the Clark’s Pump-N-Shop Kentucky Mid-Amateur’s Legends Division. Each of Backlund’s other starts this year were fourth-place finishes, making this nearly as consistent of a season as a player could have.
“My driving was my strong suit this year,” Greer said. “Getting the ball in play has always been my thing and I was able to do that well this season. The Kentucky Senior Amateur at Bellefonte will stand out for me. I love that golf course, it was a great time, I won my division, it was so nice to be back, and I had great people to play with. I have not thought about 2020 too much yet, but as always it will be great to enjoy the camaraderie we have in KGA events."
The Kentucky Golf Association congratulates these six players on these honors and commends them for terrific 2019 seasons. The KGA looks forward to a fantastic 2020 season watching each of these players in and outside of Kentucky.