Leona Maguire’s Solheim Cup heroics – in which she won four and a half points from a possible five in a standout performance that enabled Europe to win for only a second time in the United States – along with a very strong “rookie” season on the LPGA Tour has earned her the Professional Player of the Year award from the Irish Golf Writers’ Association.
The 27-year-old Co Cavan player became the first Irish player to compete in the Solheim Cup and proved to be the backbone of Catriona Matthew’s team in an unbeaten performance in Europe’s 15-13 win over the United States.
“The Solheim Cup was the highlight, it is probably the highlight of my career so far I would say,” said Maguire of a year when she also secured two runner-up finishes – to Lydia Ko in the Lotte Championship and to Nelly Korda in the Meijer Classic – in claiming five top-10 finishes on the LPGA Tour.
Maguire also secured a record-equalling low round in a Major – by men or women – she shot a final round 61 in the Evian Championship, en route to a sixth placed finish.
The IGWA awards were first presented in 1976 and Maguire is only the second woman to be awarded the professional category, following Stephanie Meadow in 2018. Maguire also has four women amateur awards (2008 and 2011, won along with her sister Lisa, and 2015 and 2017) from the association.
Peter O’Keeffe is the recipient of the Men’s Amateur of the Year after a fabulous year in which he won both the AIG Irish Close at Tullamore and the Flogas Irish Amateur Open at The European Club.
O’Keeffe showed fortitude on both occasions, defeating Rob Moran in a play-off for the Close and then overcoming Switzerland’s Nicola Gerhardsen in a three-way play-off for the Open. O’Keeffe’s feat meant he became the first player since Pádraig Harrington in 1995 to do the Irish Amateur Close-Open double.
Lauren Walsh, the 20-year-old from Castlewarden Golf Club who is on a scholarship to Wake Forest University in the USA, is the recipient of the Women’s Amateur Player of the Year.
Walsh – a two-time winner on the US collegiate circuit late in 2020 – had another outstanding year in which she made her Curtis Cup debut (on the losing Britain and Ireland side to the USA at Conwy). The Co Kildare golfer’s debut appearance in a Major in the AIG Women’s Open at Carnoustie saw her edged out for the silver medal as leading amateur where she finished in tied-42nd position and more recently assisted Wake Forest to the Bryan National Intercollegiate team title.
Michael McCumiskey, who retired in May after 35 years as head of the PGA in Ireland, is the recipient of the Distinguished Services to Golf award.
In announcing McCumiskey’s selection for the award, Paul Kelly, chairman of the IGWA, said: “For 35 years Michael McCumiskey dedicated himself to promoting the values and benefits of the PGA to golfers and golf clubs across Ireland. During his long tenure as Regional Manager, he supported the career development of many professionals and built strong relationships with the entire golfing community.
“Through boom and bust Ireland’s leading professionals continued to be offered opportunities to compete and that was in no small part due to the connections he nurtured during his time in post.
It is a measure of the man and his dedication to the PGA that he put his retirement plans on hold for a year to support the organisation through the opening months of the pandemic whilst ensuring that his successor had time to bed in to post.”
*Due to Covid-19 restrictions, there will be no in-person awards ceremony this year.