Shane Lowry’s historic win in The 148th Open Championship at Royal Portrush has earned the 32-year-old Offaly man the Professional Player of the Year for 2019 at the Irish Golf Writers’ Association awards, sponsored by Allianz, at Portmarnock Hotel & Golf Links, Co Dublin.
In a quite extraordinary year for Irish professional golfers, with Rory McIlroy scooping the FedEx Cup title on the PGA Tour – in a season with four victories – and Leona Maguire impressively claiming a full LPGA Tour card for 2020, the standout achievement was that of Lowry’s breakthrough Major title in July where he was a six-stroke winner over Tommy Fleetwood in the Open on its return to the Causeway Coast for the first time since 1951.
Lowry also claimed the Abu Dhabi Championship earlier in the season, his first Rolex Series title, but it was his performance at Royal Portrush – where he became the first Irishman to lift the Claret Jug on Irish soil – that set him apart in earning a second IGWA Professional of the Year award, having first won in 2015.
James Sugrue, from Mallow in Co Cork, had paved the way in making for a unique double in Irish golf. The 22-year-old won the Amateur Championship at Portmarnock Golf Club in June, where he produced a resolute performance throughout the week – from surviving strokeplay qualifying at The Island, and then taking out all-comers in the matchplay phase at Portmarnock – to beat Scotland’s Euan Walker in the 36-holes final.
Lurgan’s Annabel Wilson, a two-time Irish girls’ champion, made the step-up in grade to claim the Irish Women’s Close championship on the final hole of a magnificent duel with Paula Grant at Woodbrook Golf Club. Wilson, currently in her first year of a golfing scholarship at UCLA in California, has been recognised as one of the up-and-coming stars of the women’s game here, having already represented Ireland in two World Amateur Team Championships.
Des Smyth has been recognised with the Distinguished Services to Golf award for his outstanding contribution to the sport in Ireland.
A winner of eight PGA European Tour titles in a superb career which extended into a second lease on the seniors circuit where he won on the Champions Tour in the United States and what is now known as the Staysure Tour in Europe, he also played in two Ryder Cups and also served as vice-captain. In recent years has served as an ambassador for Team Ireland Golf in helping fledgling professionals and also as an ambassador for the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open.
Paul Kelly, Chairman of the Irish Golf Writers’ Association, described the awards presentation as a “unique occasion in bringing together the Open champion Shane Lowry and Amateur champion James Sugrue to celebrate and reflect on what has been a remarkable year for Irish golf, on and off the course”.
He added: “I’m especially delighted to celebrate this wonderful year for Irish golf in the company of Des Smyth, a truly deserved recipient of the Distinguished Services Award and in congratulating Annabel Wilson who has her sights set on following Stephanie Meadow and Leona Maguire onto the LPGA Tour.”