PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -- Rod Perry of Port Orange, Fla., and Sonny Skinner of Sylvester, Ga., whose consistency carried them throughout the season to success in both Section and national events, have earned the respective 2012 PGA Professional and Senior PGA Professional Player of the Year Awards.
It was the first national award for Perry, 39, who has set several milestones with his season-ending honor. He is the first left-handed player, the first PGA Golf Management University graduate and the second North Florida PGA member to be named PGA Professional Player of the Year.
Skinner, 52, earned his third consecutive Senior PGA Professional Player of the Year Award after a campaign that included winning last winter's PGA Senior Stroke Play Championship and passing on a berth in the PGA Professional National Championship last summer in order that one of his fellow Georgia PGA Section members could compete for the first time.
Perry and Skinner will be honored June 21, 2013, in Sunriver, Ore., at the 46th PGA Professional National Championship presented by Club Car, Mercedes-Benz USA and OMEGA.
The final Player of the Year standings were determined based on a point system involving both national and PGA Section competitions from Jan. 1 through Dec. 17, 2012. Perry, in his first season as a PGA head professional at Crane Lakes Golf and Country Club in Port Orange, finished tied for second in the PGA Professional National Championship at Seaside, Calif. He also won his third North Florida PGA Section Championship in August, and two PGA Tournament Series titles in Port St. Lucie, Fla., and was the No. 1 Series money-winner.
Perry earned 1,377.5 overall points, including 362.5 for sharing runner-up in the National Championship, 300 for Section Player of the Year and 200 additional points for winning the Section Championship and Section PGA Professional Championship. He also gained 200 for leading the PGA Tournament Series money list and 100 for capturing two Series events. Three-time PGA Professional Player of the Year Bob Sowards of Dublin, Ohio, was runner-up with 1,190 overall points, followed by Danny Balin of Rockville, Md., with 1,135; Mitch Lowe of Modesto, Calif., with 886; and Kelly Mitchum of Southern Pines, N.C., with 862.5.
"It has been quite a year, a big job change for me going from director of instruction to head professional," said Perry, a native of York, Pa., who has served since April as PGA head professional at Crane Lakes Golf and Country Club in Port Orange. "With the new job, you're playing expectations are less. I ended up with a good National Championship finish, tying for second at a place in the country that I absolutely love going to play."
Perry, a 1996 graduate of Mississippi State University, said that his goals were to "play well enough to finish in the Top 20 and have a good chance of making the PGA Cup Team. I enjoyed playing a course like (Bayonet Black Horse), which was tough, but was the type of golf that favors me. I have been able to play better on the tougher courses."
Perry follows former North Florida PGA member Brett Upper (1990), then of Clearwater, Fla., to win the national award. Perry credited his surge to the top of the final standings after receiving the endorsement of his employer, the Becks family of Daytona Beach, Fla., owners of Crane Lakes Country Club, and from Director of Business Development Craig Wells.
Cleared to compete in the season-ending PGA Tournament Series, Perry went on to cap his big season in style. "It was a tough three weeks, traveling two hours to compete in Port St. Lucie in the PGA Tournament Series and head back after each event," said Perry. "Thankfully, my club gave me the opportunity to compete for a once-in-a-career opportunity. It is an honor to join the many decorated players who have their names on this award. I started getting serious for golf later than most, around 18 of 19 years old. I ended up doing something I love."
Skinner of River Pointe Golf Club in Albany, Ga., finished with 999.49 overall points for Senior PGA Professional Player of the Year honors. With his award, Skinner matches Chris Starkjohann of Oceanside, Calif., who won titles in (2006, '07, '09).
Tom Byrum of Sugar Land, Texas, was runner-up in the 2012 campaign with 856.55 points, followed by Jeff Coston of Blaine, Wash., with 730; Craig Stevens of Dallas, Ga., with 685.67, and Stuart Smith of Reno, Nev., with 647.21. Skinner remains the only Georgia PGA Section member to win the award. Skinner was the 2008 PGA Professional Player of the Year, and is the only PGA of America member to win both awards.
Skinner boosted his chances for a third national award by dominating the majority of his peers below 50 years of age by winning a second Georgia PGA Section Championship. He collected 225 Section Player of the Year points, an additional 100 for winning the Section Championship; 168.5 for a share of third place in the Southworth Senior PGA Professional National Championship; and 115 points through PGA Tournament Series. He collected 125 points by winning the PGA Senior Stroke Play Championship and finished as the low PGA Club Professional and a share of 44th place in the Senior PGA Championship presented by KitchenAid.
"I like to think that I am getting better as I get older," said Skinner. "When you get older, you do see some parts of your game diminish. I just work to get better every day in some way, which isn't that different from any other golfer. I could be in better shape physically, and will work harder to stay in good shape. All I ever wanted to be coming out of college was to be a PGA Professional. I am blessed to have had the support of several PGA Professionals growing up and for the support of my club and my family."
Last summer, despite having earned another PGA Professional National Championship trip, Skinner saw an opportunity to play in a Champions Tour event and ensure that fellow Section PGA Professional Bill Murchison III of Canton, Ga. – who had never played in the National Championship – gain a spot in the field. Murchison replied by finishing among the Top 20, and advancing to play in the PGA Championship.
"That was great the way things turned out," said Skinner. "Next year, I am excited about getting back to the PGA Professional National Championship at Sunriver (Ore.), and to be in the Senior PGA Championship at Bellerive (in St. Louis). Both are excellent venues, and I am grateful that The PGA of America allows PGA club professionals the opportunity to compete in a major championship."
The PGA Professional Player of the Year award began in 1984, while the Senior PGA Professional Player of the Year honor made its debut in 1995.