Portions of this News Release were contributed by Rob Hernandez and Wisconsin.Golf.
As the snow returns and the calendar turns to 2020 we take a look back at how the 2019 WPGA Player of the Year races unfolded. The road to win the coveted titles started on May 6th at The Bull. The races then concluded in the middle of September for the members and later in the fall for the assistants and seniors, once their respective national championships had concluded. Up for grabs were awards in three different categories, member, senior and assistant. Earning the prestigious titles for 2019 in each category were Jim Schuman (member and senior) and David Bach (assistant / WAGPA – Wisconsin Assistant Golf Professional Association). All three races were presented by OMEGA watches.
For the third season in a row a familiar theme played out in both the Member and Senior Player of the Year races. The top-notch play of Jim Schuman proved to be too much for his challengers to overcome in each competition.
In the member race the Madison native got off to a nice start and never looked back. Before the in-state point events got underway he navigated his way through the 312 player field at the PGA Professional Championship for a 51st place finish at the national event. The showing in the late April event gave him a 200 point head start on almost everyone in the section. He would then back that up with three victories at one-day competitions during the summer, which came at the Memorial Classic, the Prestwick Golf Group Classic and the WSGA / WPGA Summer Showdown.
The impressive play had created a solid lead by early August. That lead would only get bigger in the coming weeks as the PGA director of instruction at Blue Mound Golf & Country Club put on a great performance at the 99th Morgan Stanley Wisconsin State Open.
The 56-year-old would almost pull in his third 99th Morgan Stanley Wisconsin State Open win. However Dan Woltman and Patrick Stolpe were in a class of their own and it would leave Schuman with a third place finish.
“Obviously, the State Open was great; it was a lot of fun playing with and seeing those young guys play so well,” said Schuman.
Although Schuman would have preferred the win, the State Open finish would seal the deal for the Member Player of the Year race. After the WPGA Professional Championship he would conclude the season with 1350 points. Finishing in second place was Ryan Helminen with 979.17 points.
As for the senior side of things it was a case of just pure domination. For the second straight year Schuman was able to sweep the WPGA Senior Professional Championship, Wisconsin State Senior Open and WPGA Senior Match Play. He also qualified for his third straight U.S. Senior Open and capped off the season with a tie for 12th at the Senior PGA Professional Championship. His play in Austin at the event earned him a chance to compete in the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship next May.
In total Schuman was the low senior professional at eight different point eligible events throughout the season. His play gave him 2,440 points, which was about 1,000 more points than second place finisher Eddie Terasa.
“It’s hard to know what to chalk it up to,” Schuman said when asked about his play. “The membership at Blue Mound has really encouraged me to play. As you know, if I’m going to go play, I’m going to try to be at my best. I just appreciate them giving me the opportunity to play. The more often you play helps and they’re really a big part of the success I’ve had the last three years winning both the senior and the member division.”
Schuman has now earned WPGA player of the year honors six times (he also did it in 2001, ’02, ’11, ’18 and last year). The WPGA senior player of the year honor is his fifth straight.
A relative newcomer to WPGA events, David Bach played like a veteran in 2019. The second year WPGA associate from Whistling Straits was able to put together a run of top 10 finishes to earn his first Assistant Player of the Year honor.
The former UW-Stout student got his year off to a nice start with a second place finish at the WAGPA Stroke Play at The Bull in May. For the next three months he would have some nice finishes and hover in contention, but never hold the point lead. During this time most would have viewed him as a long shot to win, but it turned out he was just waiting to make his big move.
That move would be a tie for 6th at the 99th Morgan Stanley Wisconsin State Open. His 1-under-par 287 total was good enough to be the low assistant professional in the field by one shot. The finish secured him 350 points and vaulted him up into first place of the standings.
“I really just had my eye on being exempt in 2020 and not having to go through qualifying again,” Bach wrote via email. “It definitely ranks on top of my accomplishments so far. Hopefully keep on working hard and have many more tournaments like that one.”
In the end the Brown Deer native was able to accumulate 810 points in the seven events he played in. The total was good enough to hold off Tom Burton by 35 points.
“It means a lot,” Bach wrote about winning the honor. “This was my first full year playing in section events. I really started 2019 with the mindset of making the Royal Cup team and just placing in the top 10. Having the season over and being on top of a talented list of guys, I couldn’t be more happy about it.”
Bach is the ninth different winner of the Assistant Player of the Year award in the past nine years.
The 2019 WPGA Players of the Year will be honored at the WPGA special awards reception in early March in conjunction with the 2020 WPGA spring membership meeting. The ceremony will take place on Monday, March 2nd at The Radisson Hotel & Conference Center in Green Bay.