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Leona Maguire wins Sportswoman of the Month award

Cavan woman claims several awards in USA after another outstanding season at Duke

Leona Maguire: was voted the top US college player of 2017 and she also claimed the Women’s Golf Coaches Association National Player of the Year and the Annika Award. Photograph: Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images

The Irish Times/Sport Ireland Sportswoman Award for May: Leona Maguire (Golf)

  It was, remarkably enough, 10 years ago last month that Leona Maguire collected the first of her many Irish Times Sportswoman of the Month awards. It’s only when you do a double-take on her current age – 22 – that you recall what extraordinary prodigies she and her twin sister Lisa were.

There are, of course, always misgivings about putting the spotlight on ones so young, but those who know their golf were in little doubt that they could realise their potential.

And Leona is doing it in spectacular style, the Cavan golfer sitting top of the world amateur rankings for most of the last two years.

In May, she quite probably lost count of the number of awards she received after an outstanding season with Duke University during which she won three of her 10 events and never finished outside the top six. In all, she has now represented Duke in 30 tournaments since 2014 and has produced 26 top-10 finishes.

Whoever looks after her ‘Bio’ on Duke’s website deserves an award themselves, the list of Maguire’s record-breaking achievements since her debut season simply staggering.

Her form in the season just ended won her the college Golfer of the Year, USA Women’s Golf Coaches Association National Player of the Year and the Annika Award, all for the second time.

And she became the first player to win the Annika Award twice, that accolade honouring ‘the most outstanding female Division I collegiate golfer’, its panel of judges including her peers, coaches and members of the golf media. She made their job easy.

“She has an amazing future ahead of her and I’m certainly very proud to have her win again,” said Annika Sorenstam, the Swedish golfing legend after whom the award is named. “I think she has done a lot for college golf and it is nice to see her continue to stay an amateur for a little longer.”

That was a reference to Maguire opting last year to postpone her switch to the professional game so that she can complete her Psychology, Business and Accounting degree at Duke, having been just one stage away from securing her card for the tour. Instead, she aims to graduate from the North Carolina college in the summer of 2018, and then embark on her professional career.

It will, it’s probably safe to assume, be a glittering career too if her progress to date is anything to go by. Quite how she stores all the awards, though, is the mystery. She has this one now to add to her collection.  

  Previous monthly winners (awards run from December 2016 to November 2017, inclusive)

  December: Leanne Kiernan (Soccer). The Cavan teenager had an exceptional 12 months on the club and international front, excelling for the Irish under-17s and 19s before making her debut at senior level, marking it by scoring and collecting the player of the match award. She helped Shelbourne to a league and cup double, scoring a hat-trick in the FAI Cup final, and won the FAI Young Player of the Year award.

  January: Gráinne Dwyer (Basketball). The Thurles woman won her fifth National Cup medal and third MVP (Most Valuable Player) award from the last four finals when Glanmire beat Courtyard Liffey Celtics 61-48, Dwyer’s outstanding form helping put the Cork club on course for its third consecutive league and cup double.  

February: Paula Fitzpatrick (Rugby). In the absence of the injured Niamh Briggs, Fitzpatrick captained the Irish team to victory in the opening four games of their Six Nations campaign, setting up a Grand Slam decider against England on St Patrick’s Day. It wasn’t to be, England much the stronger side on the day, but the team will have taken encouragement from their results and their runners-up finish as they prepare for this summer’s World Cup.  

March: Aoife Cassidy (Camogie). Playing alongside her sisters Eilis and Brona, Aoife Cassidy captained Derry club Slaughtneil, from a townland made up of just 350 homes, to their first All Ireland Senior Camogie Club Championship and only the second ever for Ulster when they beat Galway’s Sarsfields at Croke Park.  

April: Jessica Harrington (Horse Racing) and Chloe Magee (Badminton). As diverse a joint award as we’ve ever had, trainer Harrington was saluted for her remarkable run of success, the highlights winning both the Cheltenham Gold Cup and the Irish Grand National, while Magee was honoured after becoming  the first Irish woman to win a European Championship medal in badminton, partnering brother Sam to bronze in the mixed doubles in Denmark.