Well, as this writer expected, the winner of the 2011-12 Chris Schenkel PBA Player of the Year award is Sean Rash. I have to imagine this was an especially rough year to be returning to determining the winner via votes submitted by PBA membership. All three of the finalists (Rash, Mike Fagan and Jason Belmonte) had fantastic seasons in their own right, and frankly it would be difficult to argue AGAINST any of these players being awarded their first PoY. But, I do have an opinion on why my vote would have gone to Sean Rash.
Why you may ask? He didn't have the most titles, but he did have the biggest in winning the Tournament of Champions. He also led every major statistical category, including average, points, and earnings. He also has the most top five finishes this year amongst the candidates, and also led the tour in match play appearances. He led the qualifying for the World Championship during the World Series of Bowling by 297 pins.
As I stated though, the other two gentleman in contention for the award also had great seasons. Jason Belmonte had just one less match play appearance than Rash, and finished 2nd in two out of the three major stat groups. Belmo was 2nd in both earnings and points, and 3rd in average...only behind Mike Fagan and Sean Rash. He also took full advantage of the eliminator formats, surviving his way to three tour titles. Another impressive feat for the two-hander is that he finished in the top 10 in all four majors, something that Rash couldn't claim. As great as Jason bowled this past season, I didn't feel as though he had the "best" year of the three finalists.
Mike Fagan officially had his breakout season this year, stepping his game up to the level many of his peers have long thought he was capable of playing at. He won two titles, and one of those just happened to be his first major title at the USBC Masters. He also bowled a phenomenal game against Pete Weber in the title match of the US Open. He was 2nd in average, and 3rd in earnings and points. He also finished in the top five in three of the four majors this season. Honestly if he'd won the US Open, instead of falling just one agonizing pin short, there's a good chance that we wouldn't even be having a debate - Fagan would have been the winner by a landslide.
To put it simply, the Player of the Year award should be awarded to the player who bowled the best over the entire tour season. I believe that Sean Rash was that person this past season. You didn't see any other player on television more this past year, and titles aren't the only thing that should be counted towards determining who was the best bowler. Obviously the PBA members' votes showed that as well, because Norm Duke had more titles than two of the PoY finalists and didn't make the final three. All in all, it certainly appears as if the majority of the PBA members who voted, voted on the stats, and the player with the best ones for the 2011-12 PBA Tour season was Sean Rash.