MARIETTA, Ga. – In a year that included many dominating performances, the winning team at the USGA Women’s State Team Championship – Lauren Lightfritz of Suwanee, Emilie Meason of Atlanta and Margaret Shirley of Roswell – was selected as the Tommy Barnes Award winner, signifying the Georgia State Golf Association’s overall players of the year for 2015. The trio was was honored at the GSGA’s Player of the Year Luncheon, held at Cherokee Town Club in Atlanta on January 16, 2016.
Not only did Lightfritz, Meason and Shirley bring home the national championship trophy, they set the record for most titles won at the USGA Women’s State Team Championship with four. The Georgia squad shared the lead throughout the competition with Florida, before the Peach State rallied to win the title by three strokes. All three players contributed to the winning 54-hole score of 4-over-par 436.
The award’s namesake, Tommy Barnes of Atlanta, was one of Georgia’s legendary amateur golfers. Among his many accomplishments, Barnes captured the 1941 Georgia Amateur Championship, won the 1947 and ’49 Southern Amateur titles, qualified for 16 consecutive U.S. Amateur Championships and played in the 1950 Masters Tournament. In 1989, at age 73, Barnes shot 62 to break Bobby Jones’ 67-year-old record at his home course, East Lake Golf Club. He also had a long history of service to the GSGA and other golf associations, and was a member of numerous Halls of Fame. Barnes passed away in 2007 at age 91.
In honor of this special gentleman, the GSGA established the Tommy Barnes Award in 1983-84 to recognize its Men’s Player of the Year. Beginning in 1998, the Tommy Barnes Award was given to the annual overall player of the year. Seven other golfers received GSGA Player of the Year distinction and were honored during the luncheon. Players of the Year are annually awarded in seven categories: Men, Women, Junior, Girls’, Senior Men, Super Senior Men and Senior Women.
Dru Love of Sea Island won the 94th playing of the Georgia Amateur Championship, earning him the 2015 GSGA Men’s Player of the Year award for the first time. During the state championship, Love battled through five playoff holes on his home course at Sea Island Golf Club in July to secure the victory at 8-under-par 272 (66-67-69-70) over Greyson Sigg of Augusta and Sean Elliott of Sandy Springs. Love is a junior at the University of Alabama, where he is a member of the perennial power golf team.
Margaret Shirley of Roswell earned the GSGA Women’s Player of the Year award for the second-straight year after turning in another solid season in 2015 on the golf course. In statewide competitions, Shirley advanced to the quarterfinals at the Georgia Women’s Match Play Championship and tied for ninth at the Georgia Women’s Open. On the national circuit, she finished with runner-up honors at the U.S. Women’s Mid-Amateur Championship, marking the third-straight time she has advanced to the final match. Shirley also qualified for the U.S. Women’s Amateur Championship.
S.M. Lee of Buford earned his first GSGA Junior Player of the Year honor after picking up his first Georgia Junior Championship victory as well in 2015. Lee finished the 54-hole competition at 16-under-par 200 (63-67-70), eight strokes ahead of the runner-up, Spencer Ralston of Gainesville. Lee’s 200 winning score set the 54-hole record for the annual championship. His year also included a top 25 finish at the Georgia Amateur Championship, and an appearance in the quarterfinals at the Atlanta Amateur Match Play Championship.
Payton Schanen of Milton turned in a steady 2015 campaign, highlighted by a couple of runner-up finishes, to earn her first GSGA Girls’ Player of the Year award. She advanced to the final match at the Georgia Women’s Match Play Championship before coming up short to Rinko Mitsunaga of Roswell, 3 and 2. Schanen then finished second at the Georgia Girls’ Championship by two strokes to Lauren Lightfritz of Suwanee. In other state competitions, Schanen, who is a freshman golfer at Mercer University, finished sixth at the Georgia Women’s Golf Association state championship and 12th at the Georgia Women’s Open.
Doug Hanzel of Savannah once again was a dominant force in the state’s senior division as he earned his fourth-straight GSGA Senior Men’s Player of the Year award in 2015. This past year, Hanzel won the Georgia Senior Championship for the third time in four years. He tied for 10th at the Georgia Amateur Championship and finished 13th at the Georgia Mid-Amateur Championship. In national competitions, Hanzel competed in a number of events. His top finish was reaching match play at the USGA Senior Amateur Championship, an event he won in 2013. He also qualified for the U.S. Senior Open, U.S. Amateur Championship and the U.S. Mid-Amateur Championship.
Don Marsh of Johns Creek earned the first-ever GSGA Super Senior Men’s Player of the Year award after a strong showing in 2015. Marsh, who was co-Senior Men’s Player of the Year in 2007, won his second Georgia Super Senior Championship back in March. He finished five strokes better than three others who shared runner-up honors. Marsh then claimed the title at the Super Senior Match Play Championship. He tied for sixth at the Georgia Senior Championship in August.