Tom entered PPA's (Professional Photographers of America) IPC (International Print Competition) for the first time. IPC has been equated to the Olympics of photography competitions.
Two of his four images in Photographic Open earned two above average with scores of 78 and two of his images (see images below) merited (which means 80 or above). Pretty good for his first time entering! you can click here to see see the explanation of merits. merits count towards one's Masters (there are a few types of Master, see here if interested in "what are the PPA Degrees?)
One learns a lot by entering IPC. In reality, you are entering to learn, to do your best, to compete against yourself and get better next time. While there is a lot of emphasis on earning a merit and other awards, but like many individual sports, you are really competing against yourself (aka "your best time"). Just getting one's act together to enter images is an accomplishment. Not many
"So just what does it take to have an image chosen for the International Photographic Exhibit at Imaging USA? When defining a “merit image”, PPA’s International Photographic Competitions Committee (IPCC) applies 12 distinct criteria. PPA-approved judges are trained to be aware of these 12 elements when judging images to the PPA merit level. These 12 elements bring together both the historical and modern practice of our profession."