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January 31, 2013 by Bruce Sandig

Aduddell, Geare, Brown and Eaker named Players of the Year

Open Division: Andy Aduddell 

When U.S. Air Force Captain Andy Aduddell teed off at the 88th Arizona Amateur Championship late last summer at the Gallery Golf Club near Marana, few people knew who he was and what kind of game he possessed.

Oh, sure, there was some talk that Aduddell flew F-16s at Arizona’s Luke Air Force Base, and that he taught future fighter pilots. And a couple of people were aware that Aduddell (pronounced “A-dud-dle”) had played on an Arizona Golf Association team in an international tournament in Peru where he finished fourth in the individual competition, but for the most part, Aduddell was an unknown when he took that first swing on the Gallery’s North Course.

Now we know a lot more about Captain Aduddell. Not only does he have game, but he’s also the AGA’s 2012 Player of the year in the Open Division.

“Actually, when the Arizona Amateur got underway, I didn’t know much about my game, either. How it would hold up (in competition),” said Aduddell, 37, who lives near Luke with his wife, Becca, and their 16-month-old son, Brooks.

“I really hadn’t played competitively in over 10 years, or ever since I got into the Air Force. But as it turned out, it was a nice season. It was nice to get to play in eight or nine or 10 events, and kind of rediscover my swing and find a groove.”

When it comes to being an amateur sensation, Aduddell, is a late bloomer. Yes, he played high school golf in his hometown of Portland, Texas and at the college level (Texas and TCU), and chased the minitours as a professional in his early years. But when the tragedy of 9-11 came along in 2001, Aduddell’s golf career took a major detour as he joined the Air Force and worked his way up through the ranks.

In fact, Aduddell would have been deployed to the Middle East during the AZ Amateur had it not been for a quirk of fate involving the health of his wife, who studies law at Arizona State. And given the opportunity, he made his name known in Arizona golf circles.

Asked what he remembered most about that week (July 31-Aug. 4), Aduddell laughed.

“Well, I remember all of my matches pretty well,” he said. “Every one of them was really difficult on a very demanding course.

“The one against Bryan Hoops (Round of 16) especially went that way. He had me 3-down early, and he was 5 under through the first six holes. I played well, too, with birdies at the 10th, 11th and 12th holes to square the match. But it was intense till the end when I pulled it out (2 and 1).”

Aduddell then dispatched high school standout and former Arizona Stroke Play champion Peter Koo in the quarterfinals and former South Mountain Community College player Matt Record in the semis. Both of those scores also were 2-and- 1 decisions. Aduddell’s championship match against Washington State sophomore Michael Anderson of Phoenix was more of the same.

“That was my only match that went to 18 holes that week, and it was different than all the rest,” Aduddell recalled. “I had him 5-down after 11 holes and he wins five of the next six (holes) to square the match going into 18.

“Then that ending; it was disappointing in that it wasn’t the way I wanted to win it.”

Unbelievably, Anderson marked Aduddell’s ball on the 18th green instead of his own ball. Both players were using Titleist Pro-V-1 Xs but with different but similar markings. The error cost Anderson a one-shot penalty and ultimately the match, 1 up.

But if there were any doubts that Aduddell was the real thing, he put those to rest at the subsequent Mid-Amateur Championship at Southern Dunes Golf Club in late August, where he won by four shots over Adam Walicki. Aduddell opened with a 65 for a share of the lead, trailed Paige Peterson by two shots going into the final round, and was the only player to break 70 on the last day with a 68.

There were other highlights to Aduddell’s breakthrough year as an amateur. For one, he broke the tournament record last fall in the All-Armed Services Championship at Jacksonville, Fla., where he blistered the Naval Air Station Golf Course for a winning total of 20-under par. And that led to a berth in the PGA Tour’s Children’s Miracle Network Championship in Orlando, a.k.a. “Disney,” where he got to play with Tour players Chad Campbell and Michael Bradley. Aduddell showed the pros he knows how to golf his ball by posting a 10-under total for 36 holes.

Asked if he thinks his chief competition on the AGA is now aware of who he is -- that he can no longer fly under the radar, so to speak -- America’s best pilot/golfer just chuckled.

“I think when I first arrived on the Arizona scene, I was a bit of an outsider,” Aduddell conceded. “But after the Amateur win, I got to be pretty good friends with Trey Martin, Adam Walicki and a lot of the others during the Goldwater Cup.

“So I’m thinking that next time around, I probably won’t have that advantage. But I’ve enjoyed it. The AGA is very well run and I certainly loved the competition. They’ve got a lot of really good golfers and, hopefully, I’m one of them.

Masters Division: Pat Geare

When it comes to POY awards in the Masters Division, long-time Tucson attorney Pat Geare has been there and done that. He was the POY in 2009 and co-POY with Rusty Brown in 2010. Tom Sweigart wrestled the award away last year, but Geare is back on top once again.

“Is it more special to get it back? No, not necessarily, although I always appreciate winning it,” said Geare, 50, who stepped down from the AGA’s executive committee this past year.

“The first year I won it, that was really nice. And to win it again, that’s nice, too. But I think, at least for me, (the POY award) validates all the hard work I put into my game, and the passion I have for golf.”

Geare, who plays most of his golf on Tucson tracts like Randolph North and Crooked Tree (formerly Arthur Pack), got there by winning the season-opening Short Course Championship as well as the Divisional Four-Ball. He also was the runner-up in the Divisional Match Play at Alta Mesa Country Club, bowing to John Del Brocco in the championship match, 19 holes.

“Mostly, I just think I won the award for my overall consistency,” Geare said of his winning formula in 2012. “And I feel very fortunate to come out on top with so many good players in that division of the AGA.”

Senior Division: Rusty Brown

The attorney from Phoenix takes an unusual tack when it comes to keeping his game fresh, and evidently playing less works. How else can you explain Brown’s quick rise in the Senior Division, where he is the 2012 POY?

“Am I playing more golf now that I’m a senior? Well, first of all, I can’t believe I’m a senior,” said Brown, who is 55 and playing his first full season in that division.

“Actually, I’m playing about the same as the last four years, maybe even a little less. Most all of my rounds have been tournament rounds. That’s because I’m a real estate lawyer and (real estate) has picked up considerably in the past year.”

Brown, who shared POY honors in the Masters Division two years ago with Pat Geare, got to his newfound status by winning the Divisional Match Play, where he sailed past Samuel Saunders in the championship match, 4 and 2. Along the way he beat some pretty strong players, like Tom Sweigart in the quarterfinals, and Steve Dallas in the semifinals. Brown also had some high finishes in other AGA tournaments even if he did portray them as “nothing great.”

Unlike some of his peers, Brown believes that less is more. And while he still thinks he can become a better player as life rolls on, “Most of my revelations come when I’m working on my swing in my backyard.”

“For me, if I devote too much time to golf, I just get worse,” Brown said, laughing at the thought. “At least that’s my philosophy, and I’m sticking to it.”

Legends Division: Allen Eaker

For a guy who never took golf seriously until he got into his mid-30s, Allen Eaker has come a long way. So far that the former Oklahoma native and current Desert Mountain resident is the Legends Division’s POY.

“I think the turning point in my game came last year (2011) when I won the Senior Stroke Play Championship at the Gallery. That gave me a lot of confidence, and it carried over to this season,” said the 66-year-old Eaker (pronounced “A-cre”).

Eaker knows about positive thinking. He spent 30 years as a broker for Edward-Jones in Altus, Okla., a small town in the southwest corner of the state. It was there he often got the question: “Are you an Oklahoma Sooner or an Oklahoma State Cowboy?”

“I rooted for both teams,” said Eaker, who played baseball and basketball for Oklahoma Baptist University. “If the client was a Sooner, I was for Oklahoma. A cowboy, I was for Okie State.”

In 2003, Eaker and his wife, Bobbie, bought a home at Desert Mountain, moving there full-time in 2009. Even though he said he plays most of golf these days with his wife, he still took time to team up with Kent Powell and win the Divisional Four- Ball title, as well as a runnerup finish in the Senior Match Play at Alta Mesa Country Club, where he fell to Tom Preston, 5 and 4.

“I worked really hard trying to be competitive this year, and it paid off, especially in the match play, as I’d never gone that far before,” Eaker said. “So winning this (POY), this is my big moment in golf. Really, it’s a shock to me.”