11 victories highlight Stimmel’s ‘unbelievable’ 2023 season
By Mike Dudurich • January 29, 2024
Use your favorite adjective to describe the summer that Rick Stimmel had in 2023, but understand that adjective must start at a level no lower than ‘spectacular’ or ‘mind-numbing.’
It was that good. Period.
“Even this far removed from it now, it’s still unbelievable,” Stimmel said. “I don’t hit it as far as I used to, but I think I made better decisions this year and it paid off.”
The first ‘better decision’ was deciding to put the peg in the ground early and often.
He won 11 golf tournaments across the state and region at a variety of levels of competition. Yes, that number is correct: 11.
Call it a year unlike any other. Not bad for a 56-year-old, wouldn’t you agree?
His year was so good, in fact, that he earned Player of the Year, and Senior Player of the Year honors from the Western Pennsylvania Golf Association. He also claimed the Senior Player of the Year from the Pennsylvania Golf Association, and the Tri-State Section, PGA, Player of the Year.
That’s something that hadn’t been done prior to 2023. And his accomplishments on the course rank right up there, as well.
And if 11 wins weren’t mind-boggling enough, Stimmel also finished second five times, with two losses in playoffs.
Sometimes when you make comparisons, they turn out to be like comparing apples to oranges.
Stimmel’s season was a headline maker with a couple other seasons that came to mind immediately, like Byron Nelson’s 1945 season on the PGA Tour. The smooth-talking Texan won 18 of 30 professional events he competed in that year – with 11 of those 18 coming consecutively.
More recently, Tiger Woods had a bit of a go in 2000, didn’t he? Woods won nine times, taking that year’s final three majors. He set or tied 27 PGA Tour records on the way to finishing in the top five in 17 of the 20 events he played.
“This season really was amazing,” Stimmel said of his performance in 2023. “I felt like I was in contention every single week and that I had a chance to win every single week. And I feel like I only gave one tournament away all year.”
Here’s the breakdown of Stimmel’s successes:
He won the Pennsylvania Senior Amateur with scores of 70-71-141 in a playoff over Sean Knapp. Stimmel made three birdies over the last four holes that drew him into a tie with Knapp, forcing the playoff. He also claimed victory the prestigious George Dressler Invitational.
Stimmel was the champion of the Tri-State Amateur, the Tri-State Open, the Tri-State Senior Amateur, the John Aber Memorial, and the Tam O’Shanter Open.
“If you win once a year – I think that winning is hard and is even harder today because of the competition,” Stimmel said. “I have to give (Knapp) a lot of credit. He’s been a friend and competitor for 30 years. He’s been a good asset and friend.”
It appeared that Stimmel had punctuated his summer of glory with a victory in the Senior Porter Cup, joining the competition as a late addition to that field, getting in just a few days before the event started because of a late withdrawal.
But then, to formally announce his arrival on the Senior Amateur field, he won the Dixie Amateur and the Society of Seniors Ralph Bogart events in following weeks.
“I think the thing we all have to learn is don’t underestimate anybody,” Stimmel said. “My main thing is, when I got to Senior Golf, I didn’t underestimate anybody.”
One of his long-time friends and competitors expected nothing less from Stimmel.
“Rick has always been super-talented and now he’s started making a lot of putts,” said Knapp, who – along with Nathan Smith – has long been considered the cream of the crop in Western Pennsylvania golf.
Now, with Stimmel making putts, the WPGA’s dynamic duo are having to make room on the top rung of the podium for Stimmel, who has worked long and hard to reach the position of greatness he holds.
“I’m thinking he’s not quite done winning yet,” Knapp added.
Yep, there are years, and then there was Rick Stimmel’s year.
About the WPGA
Founded in 1899, the Western Pennsylvania Golf Association is the steward of amateur golf in the region. Started by five Member Clubs, the association now has nearly 200 Member Clubs and nearly 37,000 members. The WPGA conducts 14 individual competitions and 10 team events, and administers the WPGA Scholarship Fund and Western Pennsylvania Golf Hall of Fame.