PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- The Champions Tour announced Tom Lehman as Champions Tour Player of the Year. Lehman, from Scottsdale, Ariz., receives the Jack Nicklaus Award after recording two victories this year; the Regions Tradition, a major on the Champions Tour, and the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship. Lehman captured the Charles Schwab Cup for the second consecutive year, becoming the first player in the 12-year history of the Cup to achieve back-to-back titles.
With the announcement, Lehman becomes the fifth player in history to earn consecutive Player of the Year awards on the Champions Tour, joining Jim Colbert (1995, 1996), Hale Irwin (1997, 1998), Jay Haas (2006, 2007) and Bernhard Langer (2008, 2009, 2010).
Lehman's $1,982,575 in official earnings secured the No. 2 position on the final money list behind Bernhard Langer, who was the only player to surpass $2 million in official earnings in 2012.
"When you have your peers voting on this award and they select you, it's a great honor and it has very significant meaning and I certainly appreciate that," said Lehman, who won the vote which included six other nominees, Michael Allen, Roger Chapman, Fred Couples, Fred Funk, Bernhard Langer and Willie Wood. "When I look at the year that Bernhard had, and what Roger Chapman accomplished, and all the other guys who played well throughout the year, I didn't feel like anyone was a lock for Player of the Year. I felt like Bernhard had the inside track so I was a bit surprised. To win two awards in a row is very special. It's nice to feel like I maintained a high level of play beyond just one season."
"Tom had another amazing year on the Champions Tour," said Champions Tour President Mike Stevens. "To follow up a history-making season, like he had in 2011, requires immense skill, consistent performances, great perseverance and incredible patience. As the season was coming to a close, Tom knew he had to win the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship to overtake Bernhard to win the Charles Schwab Cup. Shooting an all-time Champions Tour 72-hole scoring record to capture the tournament and the Cup is a remarkable achievement. To do so in his hometown of Scottsdale made it especially rewarding. He is very deserving of this award."
Lehman, who joined the Champions Tour in 2009, earned his second Charles Schwab Cup, the season-long competition designed to recognize the Champions Tour's leading player, closing the season with 3,082 points, 435 points ahead of his nearest rival Langer. Lehman first took the lead in the Schwab Cup points race midway through the season when he finished runner-up to Joe Daley at the Constellation SENIOR PLAYERS Championship. He maintained the lead for eight consecutive tournaments until Langer won the SAS Championship in early October to gain a 69-point lead, which he extended over the following two events. Entering the final event of the season 211 points adrift, Lehman won in record fashion at Desert Mountain to overtake Langer and win the Charles Schwab Cup for a second consecutive year.
In 19 starts, Lehman won twice and recorded 12 top-10 finishes. His first win came at the Regions Tradition at Shoal Creek in Birmingham, Ala. in June, defending the title he won in 2011. It was Lehman's third major title of his Champions Tour career. A month earlier, he was runner-up at the Insperity Championship in Houston, Texas when Fred Funk closed with four birdies over the last five holes to win by a stroke. Lehman also finished second in consecutive major championships -- the Constellation SENIOR PLAYERS and the U.S. Senior Open. He closed the season by winning the Charles Schwab Cup Championship at Desert Mountain's Cochise Course in Scottsdale, Ariz. by six strokes, setting the all-time Champions Tour 72-hole scoring record of 258 (22-under). Lehman made one cut in two starts on the PGA TOUR in 2012. He also finished the Champions Tour season first in the statistical category of Total Driving with 14, the second lowest total in history, and Greens In Regulation with 77.68%, coincidently his identical position and percentage in 2011.
Bernhard Langer won the Arnold Palmer Award as the Champions Tour's leading money winner for a record fourth time. He also won the award in 2008, 2009 and 2010. Langer, from Boca Raton, Fla., was the only player to surpass $2 million during the season, earning $2,140,296 in 20 starts. He posted 17 top-10 finishes, including victories at the 3M Championship and the SAS Championship.
Kirk Triplett was named the Champions Tour Rookie of the Year. Triplett, a Scottsdale, Ariz. resident who turned 50 on March 29, made his Champions Tour debut at the Encompass Insurance Pro-Am of Tampa Bay, finishing T8. In June, at the Principal Charity Classic, Triplett shot a final-round 62 to set the course and tournament record at Glen Oaks Country Club in Des Moines, Iowa to finish T2, five strokes behind winner Jay Haas. In July, he closed with 65-66 on the weekend at Fox Chapel Golf Club to finish T6 at the Constellation SENIOR PLAYERS for his best finish in a major. The very next week, Triplett fired a final-round 66, the low round of the day, to come from four strokes back to win the Nature Valley First Tee Open at Pebble Beach. The victory also made Triplett just the sixth player in history to win on the PGA TOUR, the Web.com Tour and the Champions Tour. In 18 starts, he finished 19th on the money list with $833,717, was 20th on the Charles Schwab Cup points list after being the only rookie to advance to the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship and the only rookie winner in 2012. Joel Edwards and Andrew Magee were also nominees on the Rookie of the Year ballot.
Fred Couples claimed the Byron Nelson Award as the Champions Tour scoring leader. With a 68.52 scoring average for the year, Couples, a Seattle, Wash. native, won twice from just 11 starts and never finished worse than 12th, excluding one event where he was forced to withdraw due to an injury which subsequently sidelined him for eight weeks. His low round of the year occurred at Desert Mountain when he shot 62 in the third round of the Charles Schwab Cup Championship. Couples also captured this award in 2010 with a record 67.96 scoring average.