Major winners McIlroy and Clarke share Professional of the Year award

 US Open champion Rory McIlroy and Open champion Darren Clarke hold their trophies aloft on the eve of the 2011 Irish Open presented by Discover Ireland at Killarney Golf & Fishing Club. Photo Fran Caffrey/ www.golffile.ie

US Open champion Rory McIlroy and Open champion Darren Clarke hold their trophies aloft on the eve of the 2011 Irish Open presented by Discover Ireland at Killarney Golf & Fishing Club. Photo Fran Caffrey/www.golffile.ie

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.

McIlroy, 22, won the US Open in record-breaking fashion at Congressional Country Club in Washington DC in June, while Clarke, 43, claimed the Claret Jug at Royal St George’s Golf Club, Sandwich, in July. It is the first time since 2004 – when Ryder Cup players Clarke, Pádraig Harrington and Paul McGinley were the recipients – that the ‘Professional’ award has been shared.

“Rory and Darren were, quite literally, locked together in the voting and, in such a year when two Irish players each won Major championships, it is very fitting that the award should be shared,” said Brian Keogh, Chairman of the Irish Golf Writers’ Association.

This is McIlroy’s second time to win the ‘Professional of the Year’ award, having also won in 2009. Clarke, who won his first accolade from the writers in 1993, is winning for a seventh time.

Paul Cutler, from Portstewart Golf Club, has been voted the ‘Men’s Amateur of the Year’ following a season in which he was unbeaten – securing three and a half points from four matches – in helping Great Britain and Ireland to victory over the United States in the Walker Cup at Royal Aberdeen. Cutler, 23, also won the Irish Amateur Close Championship and West of Ireland Championship titles.

The Maguire twins, Leona and Lisa, have jointly won the “Women’s Amateur of the Year’ Award after ground-breaking seasons: Leona started the year by winning the Portugese Amateur Open by 15 strokes, then added the Irish Women’s Amateur Open strokeplay championship in June and capped a brilliant season by winning the British Ladies’ Open strokeplay in August; Lisa won the Spanish Ladies Open in March, then captured the European Women’s Championship in July, the first-ever Irish winner of the title.

Seamus Smith, who retired as General Secretary of the Golfing Union of Ireland in April, has been named as the recipient of the ‘Distinguished Services to Golf’ award. A former Sports Editor of the “Irish Press”, Smith was appointed to the GUI in 1996 and oversaw the modernisation of the Union at a time of unprecedented growth for the sport in Ireland.

The recipients of the AIB Irish Golf Writers’ Association awards will be honoured at an Awards Dinner in Dublin on February 2nd next.