Leona Maguire and Tom McKibbin take professional awards from Irish golf writers

Laytown and Bettystown’s Alex Maguire and Douglas’ Sara Byrne take amateur awards

Not yet 21, but with the world at his feet. Tom McKibbin – the recipient of the men’s professional player of the year at the Irish Golf Writers’ Association awards at The K Club on Tuesday – has the PGA Tour on his radar as he continues his upward trajectory in the sport.

“For sure, that would be the plan. I think there is a good opportunity now with the DP World Tour to have 10 cards available for the PGA Tour at the end of the year. So to get one of those I have got to play a lot of good golf, but it is definitely not impossible,” said McKibbin, who was presented with his award by a previous winner and former Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley.

McKibbin, who won the Porsche European Open in his rookie season on the DP World Tour, where he closed out with one of the approach shots of the season, claimed the men’s professional award in recognition of his seamless, winning move on to the main tour. Leona Maguire, who became a multiple career winner on the LPGA Tour and again inspired Europe to Solheim Cup success, received the women’s professional award.

Maguire, who competed in the Grant Thornton Invitational alongside Lucas Glover, a combined LPGA Tour/PGA Tour event in Florida last weekend, was unable to be present after her flight home was cancelled.


The 29-year-old Co Cavan golfer became a multiple career winner on the LPGA Tour when claiming the Meijer Classic this season and then provided the heartbeat again in Europe’s successful defence of the Solheim Cup.

McKibbin’s breakthrough win on tour in the European Open in Hamburg was completed with a magnificent five-iron approach with his route to the green blocked out by a tree: “Walking off the tee, I felt the best option was to be positive and take on the shot,” recalled the Ulsterman, who turns 21 on December 19th.

After a terrific rookie season on tour, where he made 21 of 31 cuts, McKibbin intends to enjoy the Christmas and also to get in a warm-weather break in Florida before resuming tournament duty in Dubai in mid-January.

“His foundations are getting bigger, you can see in his progress ever year,” said McGinley of McKibbin’s progress.

Laytown and Bettystown’s Alex Maguire and Douglas’s Sara Byrne won the men’s and women’s amateur of the year awards after standout performances throughout the year.

Both are destined to move to the professional ranks. Maguire, indeed, is turning pro with immediate effect, while Byrne completes her university studies in Miami in May but will likely aim for a place on the Curtis Cup team before turning to the paid ranks.

Maguire’s season included a successful defence of the East of Ireland amateur championship and a win in the St Andrews Links Trophy in Scotland and a first Major appearance in the Open at Royal Liverpool after topping the R&A’s qualifying series.

“After years in the amateur game, I’ve decided to turn pro this week,” said Maguire, aged 22. “It’ll be a new world. I’ll be a small fish in a very, very big pond but I’ll try and lean on as many people as I can to help me get under way and I’m sure there will be exciting times ahead.”

Byrne captured the women’s amateur of the year award for the second time since 2018. The 22-year-old from Douglas Golf Club this season won her second AIG Irish Women’s Close title with a one-up win over Beth Coulter at Connemara Golf Links before finishing as the leading amateur in the KPMG Women’s Irish Open at Dromoland Castle.

She also made back-to-back cuts on the LET Access Tour and completed a stellar year by winning back-to-back individual titles with the University of Miami on the US collegiate golf circuit in October.

Cork’s Denis O’Sullivan was named the recipient of the 2023 distinguished services to golf award sponsored by Galvin Green.

A former Irish international and selector, O’Sullivan – a late starter to golf, only taking up the sport at 18 after playing soccer and rugby in his youth – was Irish Amateur Close champion in 1985 and East of Ireland winner in 1990. He also served as an Irish team selector before he turned professional at 49 and qualified for the European Seniors Tour, where he won six times.

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Philip Reid

Philip Reid

Philip Reid is Golf Correspondent of The Irish Times