Harrington wins IGWA award

High flying Padraig Harrington has been voted ‘Professional of the Year’ for 2006 by the Irish Golf Writers’ Association.

The Dubliner, 35, became only the third Irish player to win the Harry Vardon Trophy when he captured the European Tour Order of Merit for the first time last season.

Despite the fact that he is on his winter break, Harrington moved up one place to seventh in the latest world rankings, making him the highest ranked European ahead of Luke Donald and Sergio Garcia.

He was a member of the European team that won the Ryder Cup for a record third successive time at The K Club last September and went on to capture the Order of Merit with an impressive end of season charge.

His win in the Dunhill Links championship and runner-up finish to Jeev Milka Singh in the Volvo Masters allowed him to overtake Paul Casey in the final counting event to become Europe’s leading player.

Holywood's Rory McIlroy captured the Irish men's 'Amateur of the Year' gong after a sensational 2006 season with Martina Gillen taking the 'Lady Amateur' prize and former GUI President Gerry O'Brien the 'Distinguished Service' award.

The Ulster talent, 17, retained the West of Ireland championship and became the first player since the legendary Joe Carr to successfully defend the Irish Close championship at the European Club.

He then capped a memorable season by winning the European Amateur Strokeplay Championship in Italy to earn a place in this summer's (British) Open championship at Carnoustie.

Beaverstown ace Gillen was named as the ‘Lady Amateur of the Year’ for a season in which she emerged as winner of the Irish Strokeplay championship and finished runner-up in the Irish Ladies Close.

Gillen also represented Great Britain and Ireland on the losing Curtis Cup team and has since won her full tour card on the Ladies European Tour.

Long-serving Golfing Union of Ireland official O’Brien, a former inter-county Gaelic footballer for Dublin, will be presented with the ’Distinguished Services’ award for his contribution to golf when the annual awards dinner takes place at Elm Park Golf Club in Dublin on January 25.

O’Brien, who won the Lord Mayor’s Cup in 1976, was President of the Golfing Union of Ireland in 1987 and served as Honorary Secretary of the GUI from 1990 to 2004.