HOUSTON – Tim Finchem, who recently retired after 22 years as PGA Tour commissioner, and Gene Sauers, whose return to professional golf struck an emotional chord in 2016, have been added to the slate of 2017 Golf Writers Association of America award winners.
Finchem, 69, was voted winner of the GWAA’s prestigious William D. Richardson Award for outstanding contributions to golf, while Sauers won the organization’s Ben Hogan Award.
The GWAA will also honor ASAP Sports/Jim Murray award co-winners Ben Crenshaw and Stewart Cink at the 45th ISPS HANDA GWAA Annual Awards Dinner presented by The PGA of America, PGA TOUR and USGA April 5 in Augusta Ga.
During Finchem’s tenure the PGA TOUR enjoyed unprecedented financial growth and expanded to include the World Golf Championships, FedEx Cup playoffs, and a strong global presence.
“It is a great honor to be recognized by the Golf Writers Association of America with the William D. Richardson Award,” said Finchem. “To be a part of such an illustrious list of honorees, including past PGA TOUR Commissioners Joe Dey and Deane Beman is truly humbling.
“I have enjoyed being a part of this great sport and I thank you for this honor.”
In contrast to Finchem, who has had a lofty and steady presence in the world of golf since joining the PGA TOUR in 1987, Sauers spent six years out of the game with health issues. His battle with a rare and painful skin disease called Stevens-Johnson Syndrome — originally misdiagnosed as rheumatoid arthritis — reached a crescendo at Scioto CC in Columbus, Ohio, last summer when the 54-year-old won the U.S. Senior Open, just five years after being told by doctors that he had a 25 percent chance of surviving.
“(Colleagues and friends) have seen the pictures of what I went through. I think my story puts a lot of spark in people’s eyes,” said Sauers.
Named in honor of the icon, the award cites a player who continues to be active in golf despite a physical handicap or serious illness. Sauers surely qualifies, given that with the Stevens-Johnson Syndrome, the blood vessels in your legs and arms clog and your skin burns inside out. He said he remembers laying in his hospital bed one day and telling his wife, Tammy, “I was going to play golf,” and how she told him she just hoped he could walk again.
Finchem, Sauers, Crenshaw and Cink will be joined at the dinner by the Players of the Year Dustin Johnson, Ariya Jutanugarn and Bernhard Langer.
Crenshaw and Cink share ASAP Sports/Jim Murray Award. Named for the legendary Los Angeles Times columnist, the honor cites players who reflect the most positive aspects of the working relationship between athletes and journalists.
“I’m elated with this honor. Jim was a reader’s dream and he had such a following,” said Crenshaw, the two-time Masters champ and Hall of Famer. “I was honored to have known him and I’m honored to be receiving an award named for him.”
Cink, the 2009 Open Champion, said, “I am both humbled and honored to be a co-recipient of this year’s Jim Murray Award. Though we do different jobs within the game of golf, athletes and journalists share the common goal of its promotion to others.
“More importantly, the relationships and collaboration between us are both vital to facilitate our efforts.”
In addition to Dey and Beman, past recipients of the Richardson Award, named for The New York Times’ William D. Richardson who was instrumental in the founding of the GWAA in 1946, include Dottie Pepper, Judy Rankin, Doc Giffin, David Fay, Jack Burke, Jr., the Harmon Family, Furman Bisher, Maj. Dan Rooney, Pete Dye, Louise Suggs, Nancy Lopez, Sandy Tatum, Dan Jenkins, Judy Bell, Babe Zaharias, Jack Nicklaus, Ben Hogan, President Dwight Eisenhower, Patty Berg, Gene Sarazen, Arnold Palmer, Ben Crenshaw, Harvey Penick, Peggy Kirk Bell, Frank Hannigan and Lee Trevino.
Former Hogan award winners include Rankin, J.B. Holmes, Tom Watson, Sophie Gustafson, Barbara Douglas, Jarrod Lyle, Ken Green, Erik Compton, Denis Watson, Hubert Green, Bruce Edwards, Scott Verplank, Jose-Maria Olazabal, Casey Martin, Paul Azinger, David Meador, Trevino and Ken Venturi.
Previous ASAP Sports/Jim Murray winners include Palmer, Nicklaus, Lopez, Davis Love III, Brad Faxon, Steve Stricker, Padraig Harrington, Juli Inkster, Jim Furyk, Nick Price, Jay Haas and Laura Davies.