There was another night to remember at the end of a remarkable year as the Irish Golf Writers’ Association crowned Open champion Shane Lowry its Professional Player of the Year at its annual Allianz-sponsored awards.
In a year when Rory McIlroy landed four victories and the PGA Tour’s FedEx Cup title and Leona Maguire claimed a full LPGA Tour card for 2020, Lowry’s maiden major victory over a tumultuous weekend at Royal Portrush proved to be the standout achievement of 2019 at the top of an IGWA members’ poll.
His six-stroke win over Tommy Fleetwood as the oldest major returned to Irish soil for the first time since 1951 followed a victory at the Abu Dhabi Championship earlier in the year and sealed a second Professional of the Year award from the IGWA having first won in 2015.
What made the achievement even more special was that Lowry shared the spotlight with Amateur champion James Sugrue at the Portmarnock Hotel & Golf Links last night, a unique event for Irish golf to have both the Open and Amateur champions celebrated in the same year.
Sugrue, from Mallow, Co.Cork, picked up the Men’s Amateur of the Year award in close proximity to Portmarnock Golf Club, where the 22-year-old had marched to victory in June with a victory over Euan Walker of Scotland in the 36-holes final.
Women’s Amateur of the Year was Annabel Wilson of Lurgan, the highlight of whose year was claiming the Irish Women’s Close championship with a final-hole victory over Paula Grant at Woodbrook Golf Club.
The IGWA’s Distinguished Services Award went to eight-time European Tour winner Des Smyth in recognition of his outstanding contribution to the sport in Ireland, which continued in 2019 as an ambassador for both Team Ireland Golf and the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open.
IGWA chairman Paul Kelly said the awards had been “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.
“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.”
Meanwhile US golfer Tony Finau has revealed how he was given the eye of the Tiger during The Masters at Augusta last April.
Woods won the Masters, his 15th career Major, a full 11 years since he won the US Open.
Finau was in the final group, playing alongside Woods and 54-hole leader Francesco Molinari. Finau was tied at 11 under through three rounds with his idol Woods.
According to golfdigest.com, “Finau and Woods exchanged ‘good luck’ on the first tee, and that was all the two said to each other up until the seventh hole.
Finau then tried to make small talk: “We get to hole seven, I’m walking off the tee, we’re right next to each other so I figure I better say ‘hi’ or say something to him,” said Finau.
“I said ‘hey, Tiger, how’s the family? How’s the kids?’
“He looked at me pretty straight faced and he said, ‘They’re good.’ And he kept walking, and I never talked to him again until I was congratulating him on the 18th green.”