After an early part of the season that featured cancelations and postponements due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the Tennessee Golf Association managed to complete a successful 2020 campaign that consisted of record turnouts and several first-time champions.
As the calendar year draws to a close, we are excited to announce the Tennessee Amateur Golfers of the Year.
Men’s Golfer of the Year
Philip Lee has long been one of the top amateur golfers in the state, and now he has the title to go with it.
Lee used top-15 finishes in all of the TGA’s premier individual men’s championships in 2020 to earn the Tennessee Men’s Amateur Golfer of the Year honors for the first time ever.
The Nashville native finished with 211 total points to edge Cookeville’s Lee Maxwell by 1.5 points.
Lee, a two-time winner of the Tennessee Mid-Amateur (2013, 2016) finished T15 in the event this year as the TGA held a state championship at TPC Southwind – home of the PGA Tour’s WGC-FedEx St. Jude Invitational – for the first time ever.
Lee earned his most points via a T14 finish at the Tennessee Amateur Championship at Hillwood in August. He also advanced to the quarterfinals of the Tennessee Match Play at Lookout Mountain.
In addition to his TGA showings, Lee earned an individual victory in the James Fyke Municipal at Ted Rhodes, a runner-up finish in the Music City Invitational at Harpeth Hills, and T10 in the Tennessee Section PGA’s Yamaha Players Championship.
Rounding out the top five in the final Men’s Player of the Year standings were: Tennessee Amateur champion Jack Crosby (200 points) of Memphis, Tennessee Mid-Amateur champion Matt Cooper (198.5) of Collierville, and Tennessee Match Play champion Connor McKay (193.75) of Knoxville.
Women’s Golfer of the Year
Rachel Heck played in only two points events in 2020, but her performance was more than enough to earn the Memphis native her second consecutive Tennessee Women’s Amateur Golfer of the Year honors.
Heck finished with 270 total points in the standings, and a big chunk of those (175) came from her Round of 16 showing at the U.S. Women’s Amateur at Woodmont Country Club. She earned stroke play medalist honors and was the No. 1 seed for the national championship.
Heck, who saw the fall portion of her freshman season at Stanford University wiped out due to the pandemic, only played in one other event this summer, reaching the quarterfinals of the North & South Amateur Championship at Pinehurst.
Heck concluded her stellar junior golf career in August by participating in The Scotty, the inaugural state junior four-ball championship hosted by PGA Tour pro Scott Stallings at Oak Ridge Country Club. She teamed up with sister Anna to win the girls’ title.
Heck is the first to win back-to-back Tennessee Women’s Golfer of the Year honors since Calle Nielson claimed four straight from 2008 to 2011. Prior to earning the honor last year, Heck was a three-time Tennessee Junior Golfer of the Year.
Closing the book on one of the most decorated junior golf resumes in Tennessee history, Heck has played in three professional major championships, including making the cut in the 2017 U.S. Women’s Open and 2018 LPGA Evian Championship. She also competed in the 2019 LPGA ANA Inspiration.
Rounding out the top five in the final Tennessee Women’s Player of the year standings were: Kynadie Adams (155), Sophie Linder (95), Caroline Caudill (77.5), Lynn Lim (50) and Mikayla Bardwell (50).
Men’s Senior Golfer of the Year
Life was different in 2020, but one thing remained the same when it came to Tennessee golf. For the sixth time in seven years, Tim Jackson was crowned the Tennessee Men’s Senior Golfer of the Year.
Jackson won two more TGA state championships, which increased his record total to 25 titles in his storied career. He was on the winning side in both the Tennessee Four-Ball and Tennessee Senior Four-Ball, winning the regular championship with Craig Smith at Fox Den and then later defending his title with Buzz Fly in the senior championship at Chickasaw Country Club.
In the other TGA senior events this year, Jackson finished runner-up in the Tennessee Senior Amateur and reached the semifinals of the Tennessee Senior Match Play.
Jackson also finished T15 of the Tennessee Mid-Amateur at TPC Southwind and reached the Round of 16 at the Tennessee Match Play. He also was T4 at the Tennessee Senior Open at Stonehenge Golf Club.
Jackson was a runner-away winner for the Tennessee Senior Golfer of the Year award, tallying 429.1 points. The next closest was Buzz Fly with 301.67 points, followed by Steve Golliher (268.1), Jeff Golliher (253.5) and Stuart Smith (238).
Women’s Senior Golfer of the Year
After taking a two-decades long break from the sport, Sarah Ingram’s return to competitive golf has been rewarding.
Earlier this year, Ingram won the Tennessee Women’s Senior Amateur and that result helped her claim Tennessee Women’s Senior Golfer of the Year honors for the second consecutive year.
Ingram held off Kelly Morris for a one-stroke victory and the Senior Amateur title at Richland back in July. It marked the first tournament victory for Ingram since 1994, when she won her third U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur title and her second Women’s Southern Amateur.
The Tennessee Golf Hall of Fame member also earned points as a result of her T27 finish at the Tennessee Women’s Amateur Championship at Tennessee National and her Top 10 showing at the Senior Women’s North-South Amateur at Pinehurst.
Ingram was scheduled to lead the U.S. Curtis Cup team in 2020, but due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the biennial showdown between the United States and the “Great Britain and Ireland” team was postponed until 2021.
Ingram finished with 85 points in the Tennessee Women’s Senior Golfer of the Year standings, followed by Morris (70), Erica Chappell (35), Rhonda Switzer-Nadasdi (30) and Jean Kraft (25).
Boys’ Junior Golfer of the Year
Knoxville’s Kaleb Wilson has earned Tennessee Boys’ Junior Golfer of the Year honors after a busy summer that saw him finish fifth or higher in six of the eight Sneds Tour two-day events he competed in.
Of those results, Wilson won two of them, including Masters Two-Day Tournaments at Willowbrook and Willow Creek.
The Class of 2022 product from Christian Academy of Knoxville earned the most points toward the Golfer of the Year honors at the TSSAA Division II-A State High School Championships when he won the individual state title.
Girls’ Junior Golfer of the Year
A dominating season on the Sneds Tour circuit powered Carthage’s Sophie Linder to Tennessee Girls’ Junior Golfer of the Year honors in 2020.
Linder played in eight Sneds Tour two-day events and won five of them, including Masters victories at Old Fort, Bear Trace - Harrison Bay, Willowbrook, Vanderbilt Legends and Montgomery Bell.
The Gordonsville High School product also cruised to a four-stroke victory in the TSSAA Small School State High School Championships.