Paul Dunne named as Professional of the Year
Leona Maguire and Paul McBride win amateur player of the year titles
Philip Reid, Irish Times Golf Correspondent (left) and Peter Kilcullen, Sales Director, Allianz pictured with the Irish Golf Writers’ Association winner Paul Dunne who received the Professional Golfer of the Year at a ceremony held in the Portmarnock Hotel. Photograph: Robbie Reynolds
Paul Dunne’s move from amateur to professional has been seamless. To say he hit the ground running on making the transition would be an understatement; and the 25-year-old from Greystones, Co Wicklow, was recognised Thursday night for an outstanding season on the PGA European Tour in 2017 at the Irish Golf Writers’ Association annual awards, sponsored by Allianz, at Portmarnock Hotel and Golf Links.
Dunne – winner of the British Masters – claimed the Professional of the Year accolade, while Leona Maguire, who held the world number one position in the amateur rankings for the entire year, received the Women’s Amateur Player of the Year for an honour-laden season which included the British Amateur Championship title, and Paul McBride, a student at Wake Forest University, earned the Men’s Amateur of the Year.
Gavin Caldwell, a past captain of the R&A, and Michael Moss, the retired general manager of Portstewart Golf Club which played host to a hugely successful Dubai Duty Free Irish Open, received Distinguished Services awards.
Dunne’s win in the British Masters – which featured a chip-in on his 72nd hole at Close House, a shot that also earned the Shot of the Month award for October on the European Tour – ensured a sequence extending back to 1994 of an Irish winner on tour remained intact.
In only his second full season on the circuit, Dunne’s breakthrough victory – in a season which featured five top-10s, finishing 16th on the order of merit with almost €1.7 million in prize money – was sealed in brilliant fashion as a closing round 61 for a 20-under-par total of 260 gave him a three stroke cushion over runner-up Rory McIlroy.
Dunne, who started the year ranked 275th in the world, has moved up to a current position of 76th and Graeme McDowell and Shane Lowry, two former recipients of the professional accolade, praised the Wicklow golfer’s breakthrough season.
“He looks to me like a player who does everything right, while physically he is a strong lad, swings at it well and goes about his business very professionally. He knows how to conduct himself and knows how to work hard. Like all the young players out on tour, Paul is not scared. It’s just great to have another young, talented Irish player out on tour so huge congratulations to him capping such a big season with the Irish Golf Writers’ top award,” said McDowell.
Lowry quipped: “He’s got his name on a trophy that has my name so, so that can’t be all bad,” adding: “I Know Dunners fairly well and I’m delighted for him. I have noticed since winning the British Masters his expectations have risen and winning the award is another good step forward.”
Maguire’s – who is in the final year of her studies at Duke University with a move into the professional ranks scheduled for next summer – victory in the British Amateur Championship at Pyle & Kenfig where she beat Spain’s Ainhoa Olarra 3 and 2 in the final was part of a season where she also won five times (Northrop Grumman Challenge, the LSU Tiger Classic, the ACC Championship, the Jim West Challenge and the Ruth’s Tar Heel Invite) on the United States collegiate circuit.
The 23-year-old from Co Cavan is in her second stint at world number one on the amateur rankings: she held the top spot for 52 weeks from May 2015 to May 2016, but has proven even more dominant in her second spell which has now extended to 73 weeks, dating back to August 2016.
McBride, a member of The Island, was the only Irish player on the Britain and Ireland team that was defeated by the United States in the Walker Cup. A quarter-finalist in the British Amateur championship, he is – at 41st – the highest-ranked Irishman in the amateur world rankings. In the Home Internationals, he was unbeaten (four and a half points from five) as Ireland successfully retained the championship.