Watson Garners Player of the Year

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Champions TourPONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Tom Watson captured the Champions Tour Player of the Year award Sunday, his first since joining the elder circuit in 1999.
 
Watson won the Senior British Open and the Tradition but his record in the other majors was impressive. He tied for 17th at the Senior PGA Championship, finished second at the U.S. Senior Open and tied for second at the Senior Players Championship.
 
Tom WatsonIn 14 starts on the elder-50 tour, Watson finished outside the top-17 once, a tie for 31st at the Toshiba Senior Classic. He was in the top 10 in driving distance (eighth), greens in regulation (seventh), putting average (second) and led the tour in eagles and scoring average.
 
Watson's success in 2003 was not limited to the Champions Tour. He held the first-round lead at the U.S. Open at Olympia Fields before tying for 28th place. Watson also tied for 18th at the British Open.
 
Watson also endured his share of personal heartache in 2003. His long-time caddie and good friend Bruce Edwards was diagnosed with ALS but remained on the bag when he could.
 
After Watson captured the year-long Charles Schwab Cup, he donated the $1 million annuity that comes with it to ALS research.
 
'As great as Tom's achievements were on the golf course, he outdid himself off it, displaying dedication and compassion for a very good friend who happens to be his caddie,' said PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem. 'He is a shining example of what is truly good about our sport. The entire PGA Tour family is proud to be associated with Tom Watson.'
 
Fellow major winners Craig Stadler and Bruce Lietzke, last year's winner Hale Irwin and the tour's second-leading money winner, Jim Thorpe, all appeared on the ballot.
 
Stadler won the Champions Tour Rookie of the Year award. In his debut on the Champions Tour, Stadler tied for 15th at the Senior PGA Championship at a tough Aronimink track. He tied for 10th place at the U.S. Senior Open, then broke through at the Senior Players Championship for win No. 1 on tour.
 
He added two titles late in the year and tied for ninth at the Charles Schwab Cup Championship. Stadler also became the first Champions Tour player to win on the PGA Tour when he came back to win the B.C. Open.
 
Ireland's Des Smyth and D.A. Weibring also received votes.
 
Don Pooley, the 2002 U.S. Senior Open winner, was the unanimous choice for Comeback Player of the Year. He was poised to follow up his success after last year's major triumph but had to undergo surgery in January to repair a labrum tear in his left shoulder.
 
He missed 12 events and returned in May. In August, he established a new course and tournament record when he shot a nine-under-par 63 at the Tournament Players Club of the Twin Cities during the 3M Championship.
 
The next week he returned to the winner's circle at the Allianz Championship with a three-shot victory over Bruce Fleisher, Lietzke and Thorpe. Pooley finished 38th on the tour's money list.