PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. (Dec. 19, 2018) – PGA Professional Champion Ryan Vermeer of Omaha, Nebraska, and Senior PGA Professional Champion Bob Sowards of Dublin, Ohio, have won the respective 2018 OMEGA PGA Professional and Senior PGA Professional Player of the Year awards.
They will be honored on Friday, April 26, in conjunction with the 52nd PGA Professional Championship presented by Club Car and OMEGA at Belfair in Bluffton, South Carolina.
Vermeer, 40, the PGA Director of Instruction at Happy Hollow Club in Omaha, Nebraska, won his first national award during a season when he captured the PGA Professional Championship in June at Bayonet Black Horse in Seaside, California. Vermeer is the first Nebraska PGA Member to earn both national titles.
Vermeer’s banner season included winning a second Nebraska PGA Player of the Year award in three years. He finished with 1,000 total points, while Michael Block of Aliso Viejo, California, was runner-up with 850. Sowards, who made a strong run in both award categories, shared third with Johan Kok of Nashville, Tennessee, with 830 points.
Capturing the PGA Professional Championship gave Vermeer the spark to the award, and he added 300 points for Nebraska PGA Player of the Year; 100 each for winning the Section PGA Professional Championship and the Section Championship.
“Winning this award was in the back of my mind,” said Vermeer. “It was attainable and within reach. To have it come to reality is awesome.
“The PPC was the biggest win of my life. It has opened a lot of pretty cool doors. Those opportunities allowed me to be playing against the best players in the world, which is an awesome experience.”
The son of PGA Life Member Bob Vermeer of Waterloo, Nebraska, Vermeer was elected to PGA membership in 2016, and spent nearly 11 years attempting to build a tour career.
“I had to come to grips that I was stubborn about my game. I didn’t like to find people to help me. I was scared that I couldn’t perform. The idea of changing stuff in my game was taboo for me for a long time.
“I had some bad habits since I started to grow. If there was a turning point, it was that I was not about to compete for my livelihood. I would also have to change. At age 40, I've had a lot of experiences that helped me along the way and the ability to stay calm.”
Vermeer, a two-time All-American at the University of Kansas, has had several PGA Members help navigate his path in the game, but perhaps one colleague’s presence at the PGA Professional Championship meant the most.
Jon Petersen, the PGA Director of Instruction at Tiburon Golf Club in Omaha, missed the cut at Bayonet. However, he stayed long enough to meet Vermeer midway through the final round before having to depart for a flight home.
“I worked for Jon for four years prior to taking the job at Happy Hollow,” said Vermeer. “I saw Jon as I walked from No. 9 to the 10th tee. He gave me a nice kick in the butt. Even though I wasn’t in the greatest position in the Championship at that moment, he told me to put my head down and go after it. That was good for me to hear.”
Bob Sowards, who turned 50 in June, is the PGA Director of Instruction at the Kinsale Golf and Fitness Club in Powell, Ohio. The 2004 PGA Professional Champion celebrated his debut in the senior division by capturing the Senior PGA Professional Player of the Year Award. He added the honor to four previous PGA Professional Player of the Year Awards (2003, ’04,’05 and ’14).
Sowards earned 1,180 points, while Paul Claxton of Claxton, Georgia, was runner-up with 948.068; Omar Uresti of Austin, Texas, third (840.7); and University of Illinois Coach Mike Small fourth (799.216).
The combination of success among his 50-and-under peers carried over for Sowards this season to make an impact in two age divisions. His five overall national PGA Player of the Year awards moved him into a tie for second place all-time with Bruce Zabriski of Jupiter, Florida, and one behind Sonny Skinner of Sylvester, Georgia.
Propelling Sowards to the award was sharing runner-up honors in the PGA Professional Championship (362.5 points); capturing the Senior PGA Professional Championship (250 points) in his first start; winning one event in the PGA Tournament Series and finishing as the Series’ No. 1 money-winner.
He also earned 300 points as the Southern Ohio PGA Player of the Year; and 50 points each for winning the Section Senior PGA Professional Championship and the Section Senior Championship.
“I felt rejuvenated and excited to win again,” said Sowards. “The last few years I stopped trying to be perfect, and trust my golf swing. Once I came to that realization it made golf more fun. It did free me up and I trusted it more. Now I feel that when I hit a bad shot it comes from not being totally focused at that moment.”
Sowards has made PGA Golf Club in Port St. Lucie, Florida, his home away from home. He has won nearly 20 titles between the PGA Tournament Series and the PGA Winter Championships.
“PGA Golf Club fits me. I don’t mind the wind,” said Sowards. “I can hit it low. When the conditions aren’t perfect, it brings the short game into play. That has been my strength for my whole life. You rarely get a day down here without any wind.
“It is a new chapter for me in golf. I feel like I hit it far enough to compete with the younger guys. I’m excited to play and to play the shorter courses. I don’t mind hitting wedges, either. I’m loving life.”
The final PGA Professional and Senior PGA Professional Player of the Year standings were determined based on a point system involving national and PGA Section competitions from Jan. 1 through Dec. 18, 2018.