Stephanie Meadow scoops Professional of the Year accolade

 2018 Allianz Irish Golf Writers’ Association Awards, Portmarnock Hotel and Golf Links, Dublin 13/12/2018. Damian O'Neill, (Allianz), Sara Byrne (Women's Amateur of the Year), Robin Dawson, (Men's Amateur Golfer of the Year), Miriam Hand who received the Distinguished Services to golf award in honour of her work with the "Play in Pink" breast cancer charity and Paul Kelly, Chairman of the Irish Golf Writers Association. Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Oisin Keniry

2018 Allianz Irish Golf Writers’ Association Awards, Portmarnock Hotel and Golf Links, Dublin 13/12/2018. Damian O'Neill, (Allianz), Sara Byrne (Women's Amateur of the Year), Robin Dawson, (Men's Amateur Golfer of the Year), Miriam Hand who received the Distinguished Services to golf award in honour of her work with the "Play in Pink" breast cancer charity and Paul Kelly, Chairman of the Irish Golf Writers Association. Mandatory Credit ©INPHO/Oisin Keniry

Stephanie Meadow’s fortitude and resilience in returning from serious injury to regain her full LPGA Tour card for next season has earned her the Professional Player of the Year Award for 2018 from the Irish Golf Writers’ Association, sponsored by Allianz.

 Stephanie Meadow with the IOA Championship trophy

Stephanie Meadow with the IOA Championship trophy

Meadow, 26, is the first woman to win the award since its inception in 1976.

The Northern Irishwoman suffered a stress fracture (L5) in her spine during the 2017 season, but was unable to avail of a medical exemption on the LPGA Tour, underwent surgery and endured over four months of rehabilitation to resurface with renewed determination in the 2018. 

Playing on the Symetra Tour, Meadow won the IOA Championship, had nine top-10s during the year and claimed a full LPGA Tour card for next season by finishing sixth on the order of merit.

“I am so honoured and so humbled to have won the Professional Golfer of the Year,” Meadow said. “I was knocked on my face a little  bit last year and to come out and have such a great season and to top it off by being recognised as the Professional Golfer of the Year is truly remarkable.

“I have a lot of people to thank, because it is not just me who got me here. To the ILGU. Girls golf has come a long way in the last 10 years and to win this award on behalf of them is unbelievable. Their training programmes have made me the golfer I am today.

“I have a lot of people in my corner who I would like to thank. My coaches, my sports psychologist, my fitness trainer who made me healthy again and my family and close friends, who picked me up this past year and got me through it.”

Her award was accepted on her behalf at the awards dinner in Portmarnock Hotel & Golf Links on Thursday night by Sinéad Heraty, chief executive of the Irish Ladies Golf Union.

Robin Dawson received the Men’s Amateur Player of the Year award following a standout final season as an amateur in which the 22-year-old Waterfordman captured the FloGas Irish Amateur Open Championship at Royal Co Down in May, finished runner-up in the British Amateur Championship and was second in the European Amateur Championship. 

Farewell Smithy, sportsman and scribe

 Colm Smith (centre) celebrating Ireland’s win in the Home Internationals at The European Club with team mates (left to right) Seamus Smith, Denis O’Hara, Pat Ruddy and kneeling, Peter O’Neill and Charlie Mulqueen,

Colm Smith (centre) celebrating Ireland’s win in the Home Internationals at The European Club with team mates (left to right) Seamus Smith, Denis O’Hara, Pat Ruddy and kneeling, Peter O’Neill and Charlie Mulqueen,

Rory McIlroy loves his tennis but it's hard to imagine the Holywood tyro playing a few sets with a member of the press corp the day after a Ryder Cup.

And yet that kind of camaraderie and sporting 'brio' was par for the course for the Irish Independent's form rugby and golf correspondent Colm Smith, who passed away last Friday and will be sorely missed by the sportsmen and women he covered from his arrival in Abbey Street as a cub reporter in 1958 until his retirement in 2001.

"Colm was one of the great characters," recalled Des Smyth of those more innocent days when Smith, a former interprovincial tennis player, was a regular on the golf circuit.

"We spent a lot of time together over the years and he was a hell of a character and a great tennis player too.

"When I played my first Ryder Cup in the Greenbrier in 1979, we were free on the Monday and I fancied myself as a bit of a tennis player. 

"Of course, I thought it would be no problem to take Colm out. But no, he beat the bejaysus out of me. He had me running around the court. He was great fun and I enjoyed his company for years."

Eamonn Darcy, Paul McGinley and Pádraig Harrington all look back fondly on those days when "Smithy" roamed the fairways from Rosses Point to Muirfield Village — a fellow sportman and kindred spirit.

"I was only thinking of Colm today and how he was doing," Darcy said just a few hours after calling time on his 50-year career last weekend. "I thought about him this week.

"How can I describe it? It was a  thing of the past the way things were dealing with Colm. He was old school. He was the best." 

Harrington went from promising boy to Ryder Cup star under his watch, describing the late scribe as "such a positive influence on my career and a good friend."

He added: "He will be great missed but not forgotten. RIP Smithy."

For McGinley, he was part of the Irish golfing family that made the good days better and eased the pain on the bad days.

"Colm was just part of that great Irish entourage with Dermot Gilleece (read Dermot’s tribute to Colm here) and Charlie Mulqueen that covered all the amateur golf when I was coming up," McGinley said. "Then when we went on tour they would regularly come to events. 

"He was always a friendly face, always very fair and good company. We'd see him and his wife Helen too and he was part of the fabric of Irish golf — that bigger Irish family we all benefited from over the years. Colm was part of that."

The great amateur Mary McKenna said: "He was so much a part of our tournaments. He knew everything about the game and was always a happy face and good craic. He was probably there for most of my wins — just a great pal. Every time you'd meet him, you'd just pick up where you left off.

"He was very knowledgeable about the game but there was also lots of banter with all those boys, like Dermot, Charlie and John Redmond and Edmund Van Esbeck. The reporters were so much of our golf back then and made our events feel all the more important, at home or abroad."

His sense of humour and bonhomie made him popular with his colleagues across the Irish Sea, as the Daily Mail's former golf correspondent Michael McDonnell — a frequent house guest and regular "foe" in the golf writers' Home Internationals — recalled after Monday's requiem mass.

"I remember being in Dublin with him once, walking along by the Liffey and saying to him, 'Which side of the Liffey are we on now Colm?', to which he replied, 'Well this side, obviously.' That's the kind of guy he was and typical of his dry wit.

"He was always great company and a terrific competitor when it came to playing golf."

Colm, whose father Billy was the chief reporter for the Irish Independent when he joined the paper in 1958, was the first man the golf writer and golf course designer Pat Ruddy called upon when he dreamt up the Golf Writers' Home International matches in 1992.

"Colm was one of those men with ink for blood," Ruddy recalled fondly of a man who would become an eye-witness to so many historic sporting moments, just as his father (a keen member  of Clontarf) had chronicled epoch-making events in the history of the State, such as the harnessing of the Shannon at Ardnacrusha or our first tentative strides in civil aviation. 

"He was second generation Independent House and very welcoming to those of us who came from the country but needed marking as he would still seek the scoop from under your nose. Professional!

"He was shy, hidden behind gentle brusque, but gregarious and responsive to a sporting challenge. When I conceived the Home Internationals for Golf Writers, he was the first man called because he knew everyone in the profession in UK & Ireland having spent many hours on the road and 'at the bar' with them.

"His particular pals Michael McDonnell of the Daily Mail and Richard Dodd of the Yorkshire Post, who holidayed in the Smith home very often, were quick to respond to his call and the event took-off in style with flag raising, the Artane Boy's band and R&A captain Joe Carr setting hearts thumping at the newly opened St. Margaret's.

He was admirable in every way and not least because of his steadfast devotion to story gathering and telling
— Pat Ruddy on Colm Smith

"He loved to play golf and was good from a medium handicap, and his choice of fourball partner was Charlie Mulqueen of the Cork Examiner. They became inseparable as they remained undefeated for about a decade and revelled in repeat wins over Dodd and McDonnell as 'the auld enemy'.

"His most joyous week of golf happened when he and Charlie gained the deciding point for Ireland in the Home Internationals at The European Club despite a mid-round crisis when the pair landed in a water hazard in a golf car!

"When the win was secured there was no time for the modern jump in the lake. No question of spraying the champagne... just put the bottles to the head and rejoice.

"He was admirable in every way and not least because of his steadfast devotion to story gathering and telling, even staying up until dawn in hotel and clubhouse bars seeking inspiration. He was one of a great generation of hardened newsmen.

"As time went by came the glamour days at British Opens, US Masters and Ryder Cups. But he never forgot his happy start with, for example, many years of attendance at the West of Ireland at Rosses Point.

"With the story filed and after a few drinks with his friends, he would drift into the darkness across the Greenlands towards his wee rented caravan for a short rest before getting back into the middle of the action.

"He'll be in the action, waiting for his pals, when we follow him out-of-bounds. We will miss him greatly and express sympathy to his family on their loss."

According to Forgive Us Our Press Passes, which chronicles the history of the Association of Golf Writers, his old headmaster, upon hearing of Colm's appointment, declared, "lt must be nepotism." And it was.

"There was no formal training," Colin recalled in those pages. "Just a five-year apprenticeship learning the trade. It was tough, but it was thorough. Not a bit of glamour. 

"You were glad to get out of the office even if it was to cover the dog racing and then pick up the table tennis or badminton results later, but l graduated to higher-profile sports like currach racing in Galway Bay and lacrosse in Alexandra College."

When he protested that he knew nothing about these sports he was told: "Just ask. You’ll learn."

Rugby was another great love and he never forgot how the Lions beat the Springboks in the 1974 series in South Africa, where the celebrations (as much as the rugby itself) were to become the stuff of legend.

He recalled later how the noise from the celebration party reached such a deafening height, the hotel manager warned that he was bringing in the police:

"Willie John McBride, the massive Lions captain asked him, 'Excuse me sir, how many will there be?'  The manager stared for a moment, then burst out laughing. So did the Big Man."

That trip to South Africa took place at the height of apartheid and it left its mark on "Smithy" who arranged with Fergus Slattery to take a clandestine tour of the townships in a taxi. 

"The segregation he saw, shocked him an affect him deeply," his friend, Fr David Tuohy, told the congregation at his funeral on Monday. 

"A number of years later he was asked to speak at an ecumenical service for sports people at St Patrick's Cathedral. His address included a moving account of that secret tour and his reaction to it. 

"When he told me this story — indeed, every time he told me this story — he would then turn to me with that twinkle in his eye and say, 'David, have you ever preached at St Patrick's Cathedral?'

"Behind that gentle piece of gamesmanship, Colm was happy to have done some political journalism and built awareness of a serious injustice."

Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam dílis.

Brian Keogh

Irish Golf Writers’ Awards for Paul Dunne, Leona Maguire and Paul McBride

 Paul Dunne. Picture: Getty Images

Paul Dunne. Picture: Getty Images

Greystones' Paul Dunne crowned a magnificent 2017 when he received the “Professional of the Year” award from the Irish Golf Writers’ Association at the Allianz sponsored annual awards at Portmarnock Hotel and Golf Links last night.

The former Walker Cup star (25) enjoyed a breakthrough year in just his second full season on tour, memorably chipping in at the 72nd hole for a closing 61 to win the British Masters by three shots on 20-under-par from a charging Rory McIlroy at Close House in Newcastle in October.

Leona Maguire 2017 Ladies British Open Amateur Champion.jpg

In a season where he jumped from 275th to 76th in the world rankings, Dunne – who was also runner-up to Edoardo Molinari after a playoff for the Trophee Hassan II in Morocco in April — finished 16th in the final Race to Dubai standings with prize money of €1.7 million.

Slieve Russell’s Leona Maguire (23), the world number one ranked amateur player, earned the “Women’s Amateur of the Year” award while The Island’s Paul McBride (22) was voted “Men’s Amateur of the Year."

It was another standout season for Maguire, who won the British Ladies Amateur Championship at Pyle & Kenfig in Wales, beating Spain’s Ainhoa Olarra 3 and 2 in the final.

A final year student at Duke University in the United States, she was also the dominant player on the US collegiate circuit with five victories in the calendar year – the Northrop Grumman Regional Challenge, the LSU Tiger Classic, the ACC Championship, the Jim West Challenge and the Ruth’s Chris Tar Heel Invite – where she was named WGCA Player of the Year.

A final year student at Wake Forest University in North Carolina, McBride was the sole Irish representative on the Great Britain and Ireland Walker team which was defeated by the United States at Los Angeles Country Club in September. 

He reached the quarter-final of the British Amateur Championship at Royal St George’s and made the cut in the Porsche European Open on the PGA European Tour on his debut in a professional event.

 Paul McBride during the 2017 Walker Cup. Picture © USGA

Paul McBride during the 2017 Walker Cup. Picture © USGA

The top-ranked Irish men’s player in the World Amateur Golf Ranking – currently ranked 41st – he also played a critical role in Ireland winning the Home Internationals for the fourth year running when he remained unbeaten, winning four and a half points from five matches at Moortown Golf Club in Leeds.

Gavin Caldwell, the former captain of the R&A, and Michael Moss, the retired general manager of Portstewart Golf Club which played host to the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open, received “Distinguished Services to Golf” awards.

Greg Allen wins Mary McKenna Trophy

 Greg Allen poses with some vanquish IGWA members and our generous hosts from Bunclody Golf & Fishing Club

Greg Allen poses with some vanquish IGWA members and our generous hosts from Bunclody Golf & Fishing Club

RTE's Greg Allen doesn't just talk a good game, he plays it very nicely too. Perhaps it was the quality of the track that brought out the best in him as he captured the Mary McKenna Trophy awarded to the winner of the Irish Golf Writers' Association Championship at Bunclody Golf & Fishing Club.

It wasn't the first time that Greg has lifted the lovely little claret jug either but his fourth victory. Congratulations Greg and our sincerest thanks to General Manager Caroline Dunne, President Michael Cowman, Captain James Conway and all the staff at Bunclody for their magnificent hospitality on October 26.

 L-R, Tony Ensor, Michael Cowman (President), Greg Allen (winner), Caroline Dunne (General Manager) and James Conway (Captain) following the Irish Golf Writers' Championship at Bunclody Golf &Fishing Club

L-R, Tony Ensor, Michael Cowman (President), Greg Allen (winner), Caroline Dunne (General Manager) and James Conway (Captain) following the Irish Golf Writers' Championship at Bunclody Golf &Fishing Club

 Greg Allen

Greg Allen

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Shane Lowry, Claire Dowling, Leona Maguire and Paul Dunne win 2015 Irish Golf Writers' awards

Shane Lowry, Claire Dowling, Leona Maguire and Paul Dunne win 2015 Irish Golf Writers' awards

Shane Lowry’s breakout season, which was highlighted by a stunning victory in the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, has earned the 28-year-old Offalyman the accolade of “Professional of the Year” in the 2015 Irish Golf Writers’ Awards, sponsored by Carr Golf.

Major winners McIlroy and Clarke share Professional of the Year award

Major winners McIlroy and Clarke share Professional of the Year award

Rory McIlroy, the US Open champion, and Darren Clarke, the British Open champion, have been jointly voted ‘Professional of the Year’ in the AIB Irish Golf Writers’ Awards for 2011.

McDowell adds to his list of honours in stellar season

McDowell adds to his list of honours in stellar season

Graeme McDowell, who enjoyed a spectacular season on tour which saw him anchor Europe to victory in the Ryder Cup at Celtic Manor and claim a breakthrough win in the Majors when winning the US Open at Pebble Beach, has been voted the ‘Professional of the Year’ in the AIB Irish Golf Writers’ Awards for 2010.

McIlroy wins IGWA Professional of the Year Award for 2009

McIlroy wins IGWA Professional of the Year Award for 2009

Rory McIlroy, who has risen from 39th to ninth position in the official world rankings in his first full season on tour, has been voted the ‘Professional of the Year’ in the 2009 Irish Golf Writers’ Association Awards, sponsored by AIB Bank.

Harrington tops the awards lists

Harrington tops the awards lists

Padraig Harrington has put his feet up, locked away his clubs (at least competitively) and pigeonholed some time of his own for winter holidays. But, still, the awards keep rolling in to serve as a reminder of just how good a year he had in 2008 when he captured two majors, the British Open and the US PGA.

Harrington named 2008 IGWA Professional of the Year

Harrington named 2008 IGWA Professional of the Year

Pádraig Harrington’s outstanding performances in 2008 where he retained the British Open championship at Royal Birkdale in July before adding the US PGA Championship at Oakland Hills in August has earned him the ‘Professional of the Year’ award from the Irish Golf Writers’ Association.

AIB Irish Golf Writers’ Association Award Winners for 2007

AIB Irish Golf Writers’ Association Award Winners for 2007

Pádraig Harrington, who became the first Irishman since Fred Daly in 1947 to win The Open championship when he triumphed in a dramatic play-off with Sergio Garcia at Carnoustie in July, has been named as the ‘Professional of the Year’ for 2007 by the Irish Golf Writers’ Association.

Harrington wins 2006 IGWA ‘Professional of the Year’ award

Harrington wins 2006 IGWA ‘Professional of the Year’ award
Padraig Harrington, who became only the third Irish player to win the Harry Vardon Trophy as PGA European Tour Order of Merit winner, has been named as ‘Professional of the Year’ for 2006 by the Irish Golf Writers’ Association.

McGinley voted ‘Professional Player of the Year’

McGinley voted ‘Professional Player of the Year’
Paul McGinley with the 2005 Volvo Masters trophyPaul McGinley has been rewarded for a year that saw him win the PGA European Tour season-ending Volvo Masters and rise from 68th in the official world rankings to a career-high 18th by being named as the recipient of the O2 Irish Golf Writers’ Association ‘Professional Player of the Year’ for 2005.