Shane Lowry named as top professional in Writers' awards
Irish golf continues to defy its relatively small playing base by producing top class performers on the international stage.
That trend is confirmed by the announcement of the 2015 Irish Golf Writers Awards (IWGA), sponsored by Carr Golf, in which Shane Lowry, Paul Dunne, Leona Maguire and Claire Dowling (nee Hourihane) topped the poll in the four categories.
Lowry becomes the first golfer from the Republic to win the 'Professional of the Year' accolade since Padraig Harrington in 2008.
From 2009-2014 inclusive, the top professional award has been dominated by the Northern Ireland Major winners Rory McIlroy (4, including one year as joint winner with Darren Clarke), Graeme McDowell (2), and Darren Clarke (1, joint winner).
Now, it is Lowry's turn to take the spotlight for the first time as a professional. He was previously the IGWA 'Amateur of the Year' in 2008 and 2009. This season, the 28-year-old brought his game to new heights by winning the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational at Akron, Ohio. He also improved his world ranking from 44th to 21st, and was fifth in the Race To Dubai rankings.
Paul Dunne of Greystones GC has, like Lowry and McIlroy before him, signed off his amateur career as a golf writers award-winner.
Dunne, 23, has enjoyed a hectic but fruitful 2015 - divided into 75pc of the year as an amateur and 25pc in the paid ranks.
A quarter-final place in the US Amateur Championship, in which he lost to eventual winner Bryce de Chambeau, and winning the Walker Cup with the GB& Ireland team sent Dunne into the professional game with his confidence high.
He went on to win his full European Tour card for 2016 via Tour School and has earned in excess of €95,000 since October.
Leona Maguire, the world number one female amateur, is competing on the US collegiate circuit with Duke University in North Carolina, and the 21-year-old has already won four individual titles.
She came within a shot of winning on the Ladies European Tour as an amateur when finishing second in the ISPS Handa Ladies European Masters. Leona was also named 'Young Sportstar of the Year' in the annual Irish Independent Sports awards in association with The Croke Park Hotel last week.
Claire Dowling, formerly Hourihane, was honoured by the IWGA five times as a player between 1981 and 1987, and has now won the 'Distinghuished Services' Award.
The Dubliner, who learned her golf at Woodbrook GC, was part of an historic step forward by the Royal and Ancient when she and four other women became members in February following the end of a 260-year ban on females joining the R&A.
A former Ladies British Amateur Open Strokeplay champion, Claire played in the Curtis Cup four times, and won the Irish Ladies Close championship on five occasions.
The IGWA award winners will be presented with their mementoes at the awards banquet in Castleknock Golf Club on Thursday, January 21.