Aaron Barber of Orlando, FL, coming off what was his breakthrough season on the Canadian Tour, won both the McDonalds Order of Merit and the Rick Fraser Trophy for Most Improved International Player. The 28-year-old won $75,337 this year, more than $70,000 more than he managed in 2000, and lowered his stroke average from 71.35 down to 70.09.
Barber kicked off the season with a tie for second at the Myrtle Beach Open, and notched his initial Tour win a week later at the Barefoot Classic. As the Tour moved north early in the summer, Barber took his second title of the season at the TELUS Edmonton Open. Following his victory in Myrtle Beach, Barber led the McDonalds Order of Merit right through the Aliant Cup in Newfoundland last month, where he was passed by New Zealands Paul Devenport. A 12th place showing at the Bayer Championship, the Tours final full-field event of 2001, vaulted him past Devenport for the leading-money crown.
For the second time in as many years, Steven Alker of New Zealand laid claim to the Srixon Stroke Average Award (Dave Barr Trophy). Despite not playing in any of the four winter events in Myrtle Beach, Alker, the 2000 Order of Merit champion, maintained a 69.31 stroke average through 36 rounds played this year. Alker also had five top-ten finishes, and when he failed to make the cut at the Grant Forest/NRCS Classic in July, it marked the first time in two years Alker didnt play on the weekend.
Widely regarded as the next cant-miss prospect from Canada to make his mark on the PGA Tour, Craig Matthew of Ile Bizard, QC takes home the Agnico Eagle-Gordon Brydson Trophy for Most Improved Canadian. The former Canadian Amateur Champion, who struggled through a 2000 campaign in which he made just four of 11 cuts, began the year with back-to-back top-ten finishes south of the border on the Buy.com Tour. Matthew won his first Tour event in July at the Ontario Open Heritage Classic and, in addition, had four top-ten finishes, including three in a row late in the season. Having pocketed $53,932 in 2001, Matthew was a Canadian-best eighth on the McDonalds Order of Merit.
Derek Gillespie (Oshawa, ON) wins the Bob Beauchemin Award for Canadian Rookie of the Year. After a top-Canadian performance (T42nd) at the 2000 Bell Canadian Open in Oakville, the 23-year-old joined the Canadian Tour a few weeks later at Fall Qualifying School. Gillespie quickly proved he was one of the up-and-coming stars in Canada with a second-place finish at the season-opening Myrtle Beach Open. He wound up his rookie season on Tour with a 71.33 stroke average while collecting $17,826 in winnings.
The Dick Grimm Award for International Rookie of the Year goes to Mark Slawter of Raleigh, NC. Slawter, 27, who joined the Canadian Tour at Winter Qualifying School in Myrtle Beach, had a third and two second-place finishes during a three-event span from Vancouver to Winnipeg. In his rookie year, Slawter was 5th on the Order of Merit with $63,005 and kept a 70.05 stroke average.
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