From the PGA
Michael Block, Stephanie Connelly-Eiswerth & Bob Sowards Win 2023 PGA Professional Player of the Year Awards Presented by Rolex
Michael Block of Mission Viejo, California; Stephanie Connelly-Eiswerth of Jacksonville, Florida; and Bob Sowards of Dublin, Ohio, won their respective 2023 PGA Professional, Women’s PGA Professional and Senior PGA Professional Player of the Year Awards presented by Rolex in conjunction with the PGA of America.
PGA Professional Player of the Year Award
Michael Block, the PGA Head Professional at Arroyo Trabuco Golf Club, experienced a storybook 2023 that began with a T-2 finish in the PGA Professional Championship at Twin Warriors and Santa Ana Golf Clubs in Santa Ana Pueblo, New Mexico. Block registered rounds of 71-71-69-69 to finish at 8-under par 280 and earn a place on the Corebridge Financial PGA Team and a berth in his fifth PGA Championship.
Block captivated the sports world by shooting 70-70-70-71 (1-over-par) en route to a T-15 finish at the PGA Championship, contested at Oak Hill Country Club in May. His memorable performance in Rochester was highlighted by a final-round ace on the par-3, 151-yard 15th hole.
“It’s very surreal for this to happen at 46-47 years young,” said Block. “I’m not really playing any differently than I always have. It just happened at the right moments this year. It’s not like I found some secret code or something. It happened to be where the course set up well for me. I read the greens nicely. The fairways were firm and fast. Everything lined up at Oak Hill and I’m not expecting to do that ever again. At the same time if it happens again at any event at all, I’ll be very happy.”
The 47-year-old also claimed his fourth career and second consecutive Southern California PGA Section Championship in September behind a final-round 6-under-par 66 at Sherwood Country Club in Thousand Oaks, California. With the victory, Block won the Southern California PGA Player of the Year Award for the 10th time in 11 years.
Block totaled 1,352.50 points to win his second consecutive PGA Professional Player of the Year Award.
“I was never in my life thinking ‘let’s try to do this twice,’” said Block. “I had this as a goal in life to win it one time. I happened to play well in two important events, the national club pro and the PGA Championship. I’m lucky enough to get it two times in a row.”
Greg Koch (Orlando, Florida) finished second with 944.05 points, followed by Braden Shattuck (Springfield, Pennsylvania) in third at 800 and Tyler Collet (Vero Beach, Florida) with 755 in fourth.
Women’s PGA Professional Player of the Year Award
Stephanie Connelly-Eiswerth, PGA/LPGA Teaching Professional at San Jose Country Club in Jacksonville, Florida, enjoyed a standout 2023. She collected 938.83 points to win her first national Women’s PGA Professional Player of the Year Award.
“I played really solid all year,” said Connelly-Eiswerth.“It feels good to have that accomplishment and I’m really thankful to have the opportunity to play the game that we work in and love so much.”
Connelly-Eiswerth set the tone for a successful season with a runner-up finish in the Women’s Stroke Play event at the PGA Winter Championships in February.
“You hate to lose, but I came out of it feeling really good about my game,” said Connelly-Eiswerth. “I was motivated to keep giving myself chances throughout the year. It gave me a little extra confidence that I’m doing some good things with my game, learning a lot, and it was fun. That put me on a good path for the rest of the year.”
Connelly-Eiswerth finished T-34 in the 2023 PGA Professional Championship and later made her fifth consecutive appearance in the KPMG Women’s PGA Championship in June.
She claimed North Florida PGA Women’s Player of the Year honors following a T-2 finish at the NFPGA Section Championship and a runner-up finish at the NFPGA Professional Championship.
Connelly-Eiswerth finished 2023 on a high note by recording an historic victory at the PGA Tournament Series Event No. 1, becoming the first woman to win a PGA Tournament Series event in its 46-year history. Connelly-Eiswerth shot a final-round 4-under par 67 (10-under 132) on the Ryder Course at PGA Golf Club en route to a one-shot victory.
Connelly-Eiswerth prides herself on being a “grinder” and taking advantage of her strengths: hitting it straight and a strong short game.
“I never count myself out of it,” said Connelly-Eiswerth. “I’m always going to keep fighting and that was the theme of the year, give myself chances and even if I didn’t have the success at each tournament until the end of the year, it worked out, that patience and sticking with the grind.”
Sandra Changkija (850) of Kissimmee, Florida, finished second, followed by Jennifer Borocz (525) of Ponte Vedra, Florida, in third and Joanna Coe (473.50) of Haverford, Pennsylvania, in fourth place.
Senior PGA Professional Player of the Year Award
Bob Sowards added more impressive feats to his resume with his third consecutive and fifth career Senior PGA Professional Player of the Year Award (2018, ‘19, ‘21, ‘22).
The PGA Director of Instruction at Kinsale Golf and Fitness Club in Powell, Ohio, has collected an Association-record nine national PGA of America awards. In addition to his Senior titles, Sowards won PGA Professional Player of the Year four times (2003-05, ‘14).
“It’s always a pleasure to win a national award like this, one you earn,” said Sowards. “I’m looking forward to more. I’m still trying to improve and still think I’ve got a couple more in me.”
The 55-year-old Sowards picked up where he left off in 2022 by capturing a six-shot victory at 10-under 205 at the PGA Senior Stroke Play Championship in January.
Sowards made the cut in the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship in May. He then posted a T-38 finish at the U.S. Senior Open last July.
The Southern Ohio PGA Member won his sixth consecutive SOPGA Senior Professional Championship title by four strokes in August.
Sowards became the seventh PGA of America Golf Professional to win two Senior PGA Professional Championships when he registered a six-stroke victory at the 2023 Senior PGA Professional Championship in October. His final-round 6-under-par 66 on PGA Golf Club's Wanamaker course gave him a winning total of 15-under-par 272.
After chasing distance off the tee for the better part of two years, Sowards altered his approach and committed to reinstating his low bullet cut. The midsummer adjustment yielded immediate results.
“Being able to hit fairways again and having the confidence that I’m not going to hit it left anymore is a huge thing,” said Sowards. “Now I feel like I can free up and swing as hard as I can and it’s not going left. That’s a huge thing to eliminate the left side of the golf course for me. That’s the thing that I’m going to take going forward and hopefully run with it.”
Sowards totaled 662.50 points to win the 2023 Senior PGA Professional Player of the Year Award. Mike Small (Champaign, Illinois) finished second with 658.15 points, with Tim Weinhart (Canton, Georgia) third with 468.75 and Jeff Gove (Sandpoint, Idaho) fourth at 331.