The Kentucky Golf Association is proud to announce the recipients of the six Player of the Year categories for 2018. The categories are divided into five age divisions for all male participants and a division for all female participants. This year’s recipients include Martha Leach (Women’s Player of the Year), Joe Deraney (Player of the Year), Tony Wise (Mid-Senior Player of the Year), Scott Ray (Senior Player of the Year), Gary Backlund (Masters Player of the Year) and Don Wood (Legends Player of the Year).
Kentucky Female Player of the Year – Martha Leach
Martha Leach received the gold medal for low amateur during the trophy presentation at the 2018 U.S. Senior Women’s Open at Chicago Golf Club in Wheaton, Illinois (Copyright USGA/Chris Keane)
Hebron resident, Martha Leach, claims the title of KGA Female Player of the year. Since the award was first presented at the end of the 2016 season, Leach has nabbed the top spot each year since its inception. Leach has been competing on the national stage for numerous years, but this season she secured the low amateur in the Inaugural U.S. Senior Women’s Open, while also sporting a top 10 tournament finish. She participated in the U.S. Women’s Senior Amateur Championship, where she tied for eighth in the stroke play competition and qualified for the match play. She also qualified for the U.S Women’s Amateur Championship, and the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur. Leach who has been a member of the Kentucky Golf Hall of Fame since 2015, was also inducted into the Georgia Golf Hall of Fame this year. We look forward to seeing her on the national scene for many years to come as Leach continues to compete at the highest level of competitive golf.
John Owens Player of the Year – Joseph Deraney
The John C. Owens Player of the Year was awarded to Joseph Deraney, who until recently called Lexington home. Deraney had a solid year of accomplishments on the golf course this season, but probably none shined brighter than capturing the Canadian Mid-Amateur Championship in August. He fired a closing round 65 to cling to a three shot margin of victory and a final tournament total of five under par. This has qualified him to compete in the 2019 RBC Canadian Open in June. Bringing things back within the state; Deraney posted a top 10 finish at the KGA State Amateur at Hunting Creek Country Club. He also secured a third place finish at the KGA Mid-Amateur which was hosted by Traditions Golf Club. He was also the low qualifier for the KGA Match Play by posting a round of six under par 66 at Gibson Bay Golf Course where he advanced to the final eight before falling in defeat. Deraney has recently moved to Mississippi where we know he’ll continue his success on the amateur circuit at the state and national level.
Herb McGuire Mid-Senior Player of the Year – Tony Wise
Tony Wise of Georgetown cruised to the top spot of the Mid-Senior Division to claim the 2018 Herb McGuire Player of the Year Award. Wise participated in four Mid-Senior events throughout the season where he finished with a 100% winning percentage. Wise got started with his victories early in the season as he captured a win at Keene Run by firing a two under par 70, which was host to the first KGA Amateur Series of 2018 (Mid-Seniors). He then carded rounds of 71-74 to claim honors of the KGA Mid-Amateur (Mid-Seniors); and pulled off an impressive 22 shot victory en route to his first place position at the KGA Senior Amateur Championship (Mid-Seniors). Not only was he racking up the wins in individual stroke play, but he even partnered with Tom Campbell at the KGA Four-Ball Championship to garner another win. Wise is now preparing for basketball season as he is the head boy’s coach at Franklin County High School; if the team can replicate his 2018 golf season the Flyers could be a team to watch out for.
Tom Musselman Senior Player of the Year – Scott Ray
The Tom Musselman Player of the Year goes to Central City local Scott Ray. Ray captured the honors after holding off a slew of competitors who made a charge at him late in the season. He competed in eight senior events throughout the year where he saw himself secure seven top four finishes, with three of those being victories. His biggest victory of the season came at the KGA Senior Match Play where he qualified for the bracket after a round of 73, and then proceeded to secure four straight wins, with three of those having him enter the match as the higher seed. The championship match saw him sneak out a 1-up victory over the KGA Dale Barnstable Player of the Year recipient, Gary Backlund. His other two victories came within the KGA Amateur Series events; one at Cherry Blossom Golf Club after finishing with a round of 73, and the other in the Championship at University Club of Kentucky where he tallied a 72. He will look to follow up on his strong 2018 play by defending his title during the 2019 season.
Dale Barnstable Masters Player of the Year – Gary Backlund
Gary Backlund of Mt. Sterling took the top prize within the Masters division as he secures the Dale Barnstable Player of the Year award. Backlund played tremendous golf throughout the season, and you’d have to search the top of the leaderboard to find his name in nearly every event in which he competed. Backlund entered into 10 KGA events during the calendar year where he finished inside the top two in eight of them. He had a total of five first place wins or ties and two second place finishes. His five first place finishes came at the following events, KGA Amateur Series Events, KGA Senior Amateur Championship & KGA Senior Team Championship. He had an individual stroke average of 73.4 with two rounds posted in the 60’s and no score higher than a 78 carded during the season. Backlund even made the switch between the Senior and Masters Division mid-way through the year, which made it even more difficult to accomplish his goal of becoming the player of the year. This speaks volumes to his recent play, and he’ll be looking to repeat in 2019.
Don Smith Legends Player of the Year – Don Wood
We find a familiar name atop the standings of the Legends Division, as Don Wood claims the KGA Don Smith Player of the Year for the third year running. Out of the six Player of the Year races this was the closet contest in terms of the point’s race, as Wood slides by with a 96 point margin over second place. Throughout the season Don Wood participated in seven events, securing four wins. All four of his wins came at the KGA Amateur Series events, where he fired rounds of 71, 72, 74 & 75. Wood is a fiery competitor and as long as he is teeing it up at an event you can look for him to be in contention at days end.
Congratulations to all of the outstanding competitors on a successful 2018 season and we look forward to another terrific year of golf in 2019!