Brown, Gianchandani, Purcell Named 2021 NJSGA Players of the Year
Pictured (L-R): Michael Brown, Ami Gianchandani, Kevin Purcell
KENILWORTH, N.J. – The New Jersey State Golf Association is proud to announce its Player of the Year awards. Michael Brown of Rock Spring Golf Club was named Robert Housen Men’s Player of the Year, Ami Gianchandani of Watchung Valley Golf Club earned Women’s Player of the Year and Kevin Purcell of Forest Hill Field Club was tabbed Men’s Senior Player of the Year.
The prestigious Player of the Year awards are presented annually to an amateur in each division who compiles the most outstanding playing record based on a system in which players earn points for strong finishes in designated events.
Robert Housen Men’s Player of the Year – Michael Brown, Rock Spring Golf Club
Michael Brown had quite the year to remember. During his 2021 campaign, the 48-year-old finished with 870 points for the season, highlighted by an impressive win at the 120th New Jersey State Amateur presented by Provident Bank.
Brown led wire-to-wire in a dominant performance, highlighted by a first round five-under par 65 at Essex Fells Country Club in the amateur.
“I think winning the New Jersey State Amateur was a big milestone for me, Brown expressed. “A 72-hole stroke play event with the history that New Jersey has means a lot to me. The NJSGA pays such close attention to the history of the organization and past champions, so it really gives each tournament a rich feel. It was nice to share that with so many people at Essex Fells.”
Brown, of Maple Shade Township understands that with age comes wisdom. For some time, Brown chased a professional playing career that fell short but has now excelled as an amateur.
“As I get older, I make better decisions than I did when I was younger. I take fewer chances and just try to play pretty conservative golf. It’s been a good recipe the last few years.”
Brown continued his stellar run at the 101st New Jersey State Open, collecting a fourth-place overall finish and second low-amateur honors. He gained more player of the year points by qualifying for the U.S. Amateur and the U.S. Mid-Amateur.
It’s safe to say Brown hit his stride in 2021, but it took some failure over the years for him to reach new heights.
“I think I’ve failed so many times that I’m not worried about it anymore and the outcome is less important in the moment, but I certainly appreciate it after the fact,” said Brown. “Failure and the way you handle failure is the key to success. It took me a while to learn that instead of being upset and dragging on with it. I genuinely try to learn from every tournament, whatever that may be.”
Brown now joins the best of the best, and it’s something he’s worked relentlessly for.
“It’s an honor to be on this list. There’s a lot of guys that I look up to and who I consider great players. To see my name alongside theirs means a great deal to me.”
Women’s Player of the Year – Ami Gianchandani, Watchung Valley Golf Club
Ami Gianchandani didn’t set out with a detailed list of goals for the 2021 season. For several years, Gianchandani fell short of winning the New Jersey Women’s Amateur Championship. In July, she won the 96th edition of the championship, and did so in dominant fashion at Rumson Country Club, propeling her to Player of the Year honors.
To open up the championship, Gianchandani fired back-to-back rounds of three-under par 69 in the stroke play portion of the tournament to earn the top seed in match play. En route to capturing the title, Gianchandani rolled over her competitors, not trailing for a single hole during her four rounds of match play and closed out all four matches before reaching the 17th hole.
Her mindset shifted a bit in the recent years to something more willful. A junior at Yale University, her secret to success this season is not much of a secret, but a trait not many 21-year-olds possess, and that’s discipline.
“I’ve started practicing a lot more and practicing more of my weaknesses,” said Gianchandani. “I’ve been able to attack my game head on and really take a measured approach as to what needs to be worked on, how it needs to be worked on and what’s the best way for me to get better.”
Gianchandani has garnered many accolades in her career, both in the classroom and on the golf course. Following her standout 2021 season, she earned New Jersey State Golf Association Player of the Year, which is a distinction she’s proud of.
“The NJSGA draws a lot of great players from the entire state. It’s a big deal to be in a pool with everyone in the state. Being able to perform at a high level and win Player of the Year given the high-level competition we have in New Jersey definitely means a lot.”
Earlier in the summer, the Watchung native earned a victory at the Lincoln Women's Metropolitan Open at The Apawamis Club in Rye, New York. She was just one of two amateurs to win the event in its 13 years.
Men’s Senior Player of the Year – Kevin Purcell, Forest Hill Field Club
Kevin Purcell has always been an accomplished golfer. This year, he set himself apart from the rest and was named New Jersey State Golf Association Men’s Senior Player of the Year, an honor he was always on the brink of obtaining.
His secret to success lied primarily in his swing.
“My golf game has gotten pretty good with maturity,” Purcell explained. “Mainly because sometime in the last three or four years, I realized I needed to shorten my swing. With the help of Jason Fiore, the professional at Forest Hill Field Club, he suggested that I start shortening my swing a little bit. I still hit it as far but now I have a little more control. If someone had told me that 15 or 20 years ago, I think I would have had some better golf for a lot of those years.”
Purcell, Executive Director of the NJSGA now joins a handful of distinguished players on the Men’s Senior Player of the Year list, including many of the same gentlemen who he’s played with since back in the day.
“These are the guys I grew up playing against. Guys that I’ve been competing against for the last 40 years,” said Purcell. “When I came out of college there was a great group of players, we were all competing to get on the Stoddard Cup, Compher Cup teams.”
Consistency played a large factor in Purcell’s successful season. In August, Purcell claimed the 26th Senior Four-Ball Championship at Green Brook Country Club alongside Robert Kennedy. Less than a month later, he finished in third at the 63rd Senior Amateur Championship presented by the NJM Insurance Group hosted by Trenton Country Club.
Purcell used a third-place finish at the 8th Annual R.A. Schiavone Memorial Cup to propel past 2021 New Jersey Senior Amateur Champion Adam Armagost in the Senior Player of the Year standings thus etching his name in the record book.
As a result of his success, Purcell earned a spot on the 32nd Senior Challenge Match squad. With his help, Purcell helped lead the NJSGA past the Golf Association of Philadelphia, the Maryland State Golf Association, and the Delaware State Golf Association, winning the event for the first time since 2003.
“The opportunity to play in those inter-association matches is something that I’ve missed, having played in the Compher Cup and Stoddard Cup several times,” said Purcell. “You’re playing against guys you’ve played against over the years and it’s great to see old friends. Now that I’m in the administrative end, I’m very friendly with the other executive directors and presidents. Overall, it’s just a great opportunity and to win is that much better.”