Men's 2023 POY Announced
By Bryan Kast
Kutztown, Pa. – For the third consecutive year, the Pennsylvania Golf Association’s W.C. Fownes, Jr. Amateur Player of the Year honor was decided by less than 15 points in the overall standings, with Jericho National Golf Club’s Calen Sanderson finishing 12.5 points ahead of Out Door Country Club’s Karl Frisk to claim the award.
Sanderson, a sophomore at the University of Notre Dame and a member of the institution’s golf team, began the season with a 20th-place finish at the 110th Pennsylvania Amateur Championship and was runner-up at the 107th Pennsylvania Open to accumulate a total of 460 points.
“I really enjoyed those two events a whole lot,” said Sanderson. “I always love playing in the PA Golf tournaments and being able to play in my home state and play some pretty awesome golf courses.”
Sanderson opened the PA Open with a one-under-par 69 in round one, then carded a two-under 68 in round two and a four-under 66 in round three to finish the tournament seven strokes under par and just two behind champion Kevin Kraft of 2nd Swing Golf.
“I remember playing in the Open and having a super great week,” recalled Sanderson. “I think the key moment was in the second round on Tuesday. I had missed a couple of really short putts, and I was walking up to the 10th tee box after having missed a short one on the 9th green. So, at that point, I had 27 holes left in the event and I just remember telling myself to keep my head up and not get too frustrated and I'll give myself a great shot to win this event. Obviously, it was a little painful to come up a couple shots short, but I played really well and I'm proud of my effort and my demeanor. It was a really special week.
One of the golfers chasing Sanderson in the W.C. Fownes, Jr. Amateur Player of the Year standings was Connoquenessing Country Club’s Rick Stimmel, who won the award in 2020. Stimmel’s 337.5 points placed him sixth in those standings this year, but he was a dominant force in the 2023 Senior Player of the Year standings and nearly doubled the point total of his closest competitor, Sean Knapp, the reigning Senior Player of the Year who had won the award for six years in a row. Stimmel snapped the streak with a total of 1237.5 points compared to Knapp’s 620.
Stimmel’s resume in 2023 included wins at the PA Senior Amateur (thanks to birdies on three of the last four holes and a playoff win against Knapp) and the Senior Division of the George Dressler Memorial. Additionally, he earned a pair of second place finishes at the Art Wall Jr. Memorial and Senior Match-Play Championships. He logged an eighth-place finish at the PA Amateur and came in ninth at the PA Senior Open while also qualifying for the USGA Senior Amateur.
“Listen, if you win one time, that’s a pretty good year – but I’ve won 10 times this year and have five second-place finishes,” said Stimmel. “That’s something you think you’ll do at 26 years old, not 56 years old. It’s crazy. To win this award shows how you do against your peers, and you’ve got to earn it, it’s not given to you. That’s what kind of cool about it.”
Looking to see just how far his hot streak could take him, Stimmel also competed in two late-season tournaments in Florida, and the magic was still there: he won the Dixie Senior Amateur by six strokes on Dec. 9 and eked out a win in the 40th Annual Ralph Bogart Tournament by a single stroke on Dec. 19. Stimmel was also named the West Penn Golf Association Player of the Year and Senior Player of the Year.
“I just got to the point where I felt if you make better decisions, you end up getting better results,” said Stimmel. “Maybe for the last 30 years I haven’t been making great decisions on the golf course. So, this year, it’s possible I just made a couple of better decisions, and it ended up working out – I don’t think I’m hitting the ball any differently. In all honesty, I think it’s just mentally going around the golf course and thinking a little bit better than I have in the past. It’s a year I won’t forget.”
In the Super Senior Division, Brian Rothaus from Five Ponds Golf Club repeated as Player of the Year, earning his second-ever statewide honor. His 750 points outdueled Michael Capotis’ 365, as Rothaus claimed a quartet of Super Senior victories – in the PA Senior Amateur, the George Dressler Memorial, the Art Wall Jr. Memorial, and the PA Senior Match-Play Championship.
“Last year I was player of the year, but I didn’t win any tournaments – just came up short a little bit in some of them,” said Rothaus. “I love competing and this year, everything just fell into place. It was great. I’ve been trying to shoot my age –and haven’t done it yet—but every year it gets a bit easier.”