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Albany’s Skinner named Senior PGA POY — again

River Pointe golf pro Sonny Skinner became the first player to win three straight Senior PGA Professional Player of the Year awards Tuesday.

River Pointe golf pro Sonny Skinner became the first player to win three straight Senior PGA Professional Player of the Year awards Tuesday.

ALBANY — Sonny Skinner admits that 2012 was a difficult year on the golf course.

But that’s what made his recent Senior PGA Professional Player of the Year award that much more special.

“This year seemed to be a lot more a struggle,” Skinner, the head golf pro at River Pointe Golf Club, told The Herald on Tuesday. “I battled more demons in my brain than in other years. And by the end of the year, I hadn’t been playing great golf for about three months.”

Skinner, 52, battled through a late-season slump to become the first in history to win three straight Senior PGA Professional Player of the Year awards and only the second to win three overall, matching Chris Starkjohann’s trio of honors in 2006, ’07 and ’09.

Skinner has made it a perfect 3-for-3 since becoming eligible for the senior award in 2010 when he turned 50.

“It’s nice to know you can play consistent enough to do that,” said Skinner, who was also named the PGA Professional of the Year in 2008 before joining the senior division. “I could see (a third straight title) happening as the year was ongoing and was aware of that. In the past few years I have been fortunate to play well in some key tournaments. It’s nice to be recognized as one of the better players.”

Skinner, the only PGA of America member to win both the PGA Professional and Senior PGA Professional Players of the Year awards, jumped to the top of the national points leaderboard with a win in January in the Senior Stroke Play Championship, the year’s first event.

And even though he struggled with consistency throughout the year, he never relinquished his lead — thanks to some timely low rounds.

“My game wasn’t very solid,” he said. “It was extra erratic. My stroke average is the highest it has been in a long time, but I still played well in some key tournaments.”

He earned 393.5 of his 999.49 overall points in just three events: the Senior PGA Professional National Championship (third place for 168.5 points), the Senior Stroke Play Championship (first place for 125 points) and the Georgia PGA Section Championship (first place for 100 points). He also collected 225 points for being named the Section Player of the Year and 115 points through the PGA Tournament series.

Skinner qualified for the Senior PGA Championship and finished tied for 44th, and he was the low PGA club professional.

“That was great the way things turned out,” Skinner said. “Next year, I am excited about getting back to the PGA Professional National Championship at Sunriver (Ore.) and to be in the Senior PGA Championship at Bellerive (in St. Louis). Both are excellent venues, and I am grateful that the PGA of America allows PGA club professionals the opportunity to compete in a major championship.”

Skinner finished more than 100 points ahead of second place, which was awarded to former PGA Tour golfer Tom Byrum (856.55 points).

“I’m just very thankful for River Pointe and the opportunity they have given me to play in as many events as I have played in,” said Skinner, who has been at River Pointe since January of 2008. “It’s been a joy.”

Rod Perry of Port Orange, Fla., won the 2012 PGA Professional Player of the Year award, becoming the first left-handed player to earn the honor since it began in 1984. The Senior PGA Professional Player of the Year honor made its debut in 1995.