Block, Changkija claim their first POY titles;
Sowards earns record eighth career POY award and second-consecutive as a Senior
FRISCO, Texas (Jan. 5, 2023) ー Michael Block of Mission Viejo, California; Sandra Changkija of Kissimmee, Florida; and Bob Sowards of Dublin, Ohio, won their respective 2022 PGA of America 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, enjoyed a highlight-filled 2022 that included winning Southern California PGA Player of the Year and the Southern California PGA Professional Championship en route to earning the 2022 PGA Professional Player of the Year Award.
In April, Block finished T-2 in the PGA Professional Championship at Omni Barton Creek Resort & Spa in Austin, Texas. He recorded rounds of 66-69-70-73 to finish at 5-under-par 278 and earn a spot in the PGA Championship at Southern Hills Country Club last May. It was his fourth career PGA Championship appearance, and first since 2018
Block was a member of the U.S. team at the 30th PGA Cup, contested at FoxHills Club & Resort in Surrey, England in September. He rallied from a four-hole deficit in the opening singles match on the final day to earn a crucial point and help the U.S. team win its first overseas PGA Cup since 2009.
He then won his third Southern California PGA Professional Championship title after posting a three-day total of 2-under-par 214 to win by five strokes at El Niguel Country Club.
Block concluded his stellar 2022 by winning Event No. 3 in the PGA Tournament Series at PGA Golf Club in Port St. Lucie, Florida. He birdied the first playoff hole to defeat Vince Drahman after finishing at 10-under-par 134.
Other notable finishes for Block included second in the SCPGA’s Stroke Play Classic #1, T–2 at the Stroke Play Classic #2 and T-2 at the California State Open.
He registered 1,007.50 points to receive the first national award of his career. Jesse Mueller of Phoenix, Arizona, finished second with 825.00. Ryan Vermeer of Omaha, Nebraska, (812.50) was third followed by Sean McCarty of Coralville, Iowa, (620.00) in fourth.
“This was one of my last bucket list dreams,” said Block. “That’s why I made it a priority to make it to Florida to seal it up. Once I did have the lead, I didn’t want to lose it again like I have in the past by not playing in the Tournament Series events. I have very supportive management at Arroyo Trabuco Golf Club. There’s no way I could have done this and been gone as much as I am from home if I didn’t have my wife and kids support me as well.”
Women’s PGA Professional Player of the Year Award
Sandra Changkija, the PGA Assistant Professional at ChampionsGate Golf Resort in Davenport, Florida, collected 725 points to earn her first career national Women’s PGA Professional Player of the Year Award. The 32-year-old also won North Florida PGA Woman Player of the Year.
“I’m super excited,” said Changkija. “It’s something that I wanted when I first became a PGA Member. It was one of my goals to be the National Player of the Year.”
She claimed the PGA Women’s Stroke Play Championship at PGA Golf Club in February for the second consecutive year. Changkija parred the fifth playoff hole to clinch the victory following a final round 1-under-par 70.
Changkija, who won 16 tournaments while at Nova Southeastern University and is the only four-time Division II Player of the Year (2008-11), won the 2022 LPGA Professionals National Championship – Championship Division in July at Kingsmill following a three-hole playoff and final score of 2-under-par 211.
In August, she totaled 95 points to win the 2022 NFPGA Stableford Championship at Orange County National.
Changkija continued her strong summer by winning the North Florida Section Championship and Women’s Section Championship in September at TPC Sawgrass. She tallied a three-day total of 2-under-par 214, which included an opening-round 3-under 69, to win the section title by one stroke.
“Being that this was my rookie year as a PGA Member, my first section championship and my first time playing the TPC Sawgrass Stadium Course, it was really cool to win at that venue,” said Changkija.
Ashley Grier (641.25) of Hagerstown, Maryland, finished second followed by Stephanie Connelly-Eiswerth (475.00) of Jacksonville, Florida, in third and Joanna Coe (365.00) of Ardmore, Pennsylvania, in fourth place.
Senior PGA Professional Player of the Year Award
Earning his second-consecutive and fourth overall Senior PGA Professional Player of the Year Award (2018, ‘19, ’21), Bob Sowards continues to set PGA of America records.
The PGA Director of Instruction at Kinsale Golf and Fitness Club in Powell, Ohio, has won eight national PGA awards, including four as PGA Professional Player of the Year (2003-05, ‘14). His eight national PGA awards are the most in the history of the Association.
“It’s always awesome to be recognized and win an award where you earn the best player of the year,” said Sowards. “It really never gets old.”
The 54-year-old Sowards also collected both the 2022 Southern Ohio PGA Player of the Year and Senior Player of the Year titles.
He kicked off his memorable 2022 with a victory at the PGA Winter Championships at PGA Golf Club in Port St. Lucie, Florida. Sowards won the Senior Stroke Play (Group A) Championship by a single stroke after posting scores of 66-65-69.
Sowards emerged victorious in the Southern Ohio PGA Senior Professional Championship for the fifth consecutive year. He clinched the victory on the first playoff hole following rounds of 67-71 (4-under par 138) at Clovernook Country Club.
In October, Sowards finished T-17 (1-over par 289) at the Senior PGA Professional Championship and qualified for the 2023 KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship, which will be the first major championship held at Fields Ranch East at PGA Frisco in Frisco, Texas, in May.
Sowards’ final victory of 2022 was Event No. 5 in December’s PGA Tournament Series. He carded three closing birdies en route to a final-round 5-under-par 67 and final score of 8-under-par 136.
Sowards credits his continued commitment to flexibility, distance and a strong short game for his award-winning 2022.
“One thing that I’ve always tried to do is maintain my flexibility,” said Sowards. “That’s something I’ve worked really hard on to try to maintain my game. I’ve worked on trying to keep my distance. I still feel like I hit it far enough to compete with the young guys. My strength has always been my short game. That’s what I’ve relied on my whole career. Hopefully I can continue to contend for these awards over the next few years.”
Sowards collected 776.71 points to win the 2022 Senior PGA Professional Player of the Year Award. Tracy Phillips (671.00) of Tulsa, Oklahoma, finished second followed by Eric Manning (600.00) of Cortland, New York, in third and Tim Weinhart (521.90) of Alpharetta, Georgia, in fourth.
PHOTOS: BLOCK, CHANGKIJA & SOWARDS
B-ROLL VIDEO: BLOCK, CHANGKIJA & SOWARDS
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Greg Dillard, PGA of America, 561-308-8013, firstname.lastname@example.org