2023 Tennessee Players of the Year
FRANKLIN, Tenn. — The 2023 Tennessee Golf Association season was full of highlights and exceptional golf. Blades Brown and Sophie Linder’s seasons were among them, as both players made history by winning their respective junior and regular player of the year awards, the first golfers to ever achieve this feat. Meanwhile, Mike Poe and Susan Miller each won their first Senior Player of the Year awards.
Women’s and Girls’ Junior Player of the Year – Sophie Linder – Carthage, Tenn.
Sophie Linder became the first player to win the Girls’ Junior and Women’s Player of the Year awards in the same season. Her 2023 campaign was highlighted by a win in the Women’s Match Play at Belle Meade Country Club where she defeated 2022 Girls’ Junior Player of the Year Lynn Lim in 22 holes. In addition to her success in Tennessee, Linder also qualified for and played in the 2023 U.S. Women’s Open at Pebble Beach Golf Links.
“I didn't really have expectations, but I did I want to play well, but just to have the opportunity to play with the LPGA Professionals in the practice round and just to see what they do. It just, it was unreal,” Linder said about her experience at the 78th U.S. Women’s Open. “I can't even really explain it. Like I still can't wrap my head around it, honestly.”
This is Linder’s third time earning the Tennessee Girls’ Junior Player of the Year title, joining Rachel Heck as just the second person in TGA history to win this award three separate times.
“It’s so special just to have your name on one of those lists,” Linder said. “It's just really cool to see on the list with the role models that I grew up in the state of Tennessee watching and learning from.”
The Carthage native went on to play in four tournaments in her first semester as a freshman at Ole Miss and earned SEC Freshman of the Week honors. A contributor in all the tournaments she played in, she’s helped lead a strong Ole Miss team to four top-five finishes.
Linder also advanced to the Round of 16 at the U.S. Women’s Four-Ball with playing partner Emerson Blair.
Men’s and Boys’ Junior Player of the Year – Blades Brown – Nashville, Tenn.
Blades Brown took the golf world by storm in 2023, which culminated with the 16-year-old becoming the first person to win the Tennessee Boys’ Junior and Men’s Player of the Year honors in the same year. He also joined some great company after becoming just the third player to win the Boys’ Junior Player of the Year award in multiple years, Davis Shore and Jaron Leasure.
“Tennessee golf has definitely leveled up my game,” Brown said. “To be able to play in State Opens and State Junior Ams, just to be able to be in that environment and to be surrounded [by] amazing people has really fueled me in my golf career.”
His season started at the U.S. Men’s Four-Ball, where he and Jackson Herrington advanced to the Quarterfinals as one of the youngest duos at the event. He returned to Tennessee and finished as the youngest Low Amateur in Tennessee State Open history, before going on to smash a multitude of records at the Tennessee Junior Championship where he won by 12 strokes. Brown then put his name on the national map where he broke Bobby Jones’ 103-year record as the youngest medalist at the US Amateur.
“I mean, to have your name mentioned in the same name or in the same sentence as Bobby Jones is absolutely incredible,” Brown said. “That’s something that Tiger Woods hasn't even done and to have my name in the record books, that's so cool to think about.”
Brown has goals set for the 2024 season to keep getting better each day and use this past year’s accomplishments to fuel the coming season.
“Do the best I can and become the best player I can be,” Brown said. “Whether that means I win every tournament from now on or I don't win any tournaments from now, I'm just gonna keep focusing on becoming the best player that I can be.”
Women’s Senior Player of the Year – Sue Miller – Loudon, Tenn.
It was a close race for the Women’s Senior Player of the Year crown, but Sue Miller was the ultimate champion, earning her first spot amongst the game’s greats in Tennessee. While she’s worked hard to get her game to a place where she could earn this award, the phone call congratulating Miller on her achievement still came as a surprise.
“I was shocked, I really never had it in the back of my mind,” Miller said. “I’m honored because there’s a lot of good golfers in the history [of Tennessee golf].”
It paid off for Miller, finishing in the top three in all of the TGA events she participated in, which included a win at the Women’s Four-Ball with her playing partner Robin Banner.
Miller attributes a lot of her success this year to a renewed focus on her approach to the game as a whole. Her off-the-course work, which includes a strict fitness and mobility regimen, as well as a healthy diet, has helped her hone her game on the course. That along with a recent swing change has led to more successes, like a second-place finish at the Tennessee Women’s Senior Open.
“Four months ago I was in a lesson and I said ‘I’ve been playing really good golf, but I think I can play better,’” Miller said. “A combination of fitness, nutrition and swing changes have leveled up my game.”
The Loudon resident hopes to continue that success into the 2024 season and capture an individual title in Tennessee.
Men’s Senior Player of the Year – Mike Poe – Loudon, Tenn.
In 2022, Poe was just five points shy of winning this very same award, so in 2023 he came back with his sights set on putting his name in the history books. A win at the Senior Four-Ball with partner Tim Dinwiddie got him on the right track and from there he continued to play well. Poe won in a playoff at the Tillinghast Invitational to secure his second win of the season. It all culminated with Poe winning a Tennessee Player of the Year award, something he’s been vying for for a long time.
“To come back at 66 years old to win the Senior Men’s Player of the Year means a lot to me,” Poe said. “For me to finish towards the end of my senior career, it’s pretty special.”
But if you asked Poe what the highlight for the season would be, it wouldn’t have been in any of the events that earn points for Player of the Year. Instead, it would be the Challenge Cup, an annual event that pits the top amateur golfers against the top professionals in Tennessee. With the John Deal Cup on the line, Poe stormed back from two down to win his match on the 18th hole to win back the Cup for the amateurs. The pressure, however, never phased him.
“We’ve all been in pressure situations,” Poe said. “But it’s a different type of pressure when you’ve got your peers standing around. It was so unique the way I felt… but I was at ease.”
Next season, Poe has the same goal he has every year: make the Challenge Cup team to represent the Amateurs one more time. It’s an honor he looks forward to every chance he gets.
“Making the cup team is always the number one goal to represent the amateurs in Tennessee,” Poe said. “I’d love to make just one more.”