Leona Maguire claims her second Player of the Year Award
Duke's Leona Maguire was voted PING Player of the Year by the WGCA for the second time in three years

Duke's Leona Maguire was voted PING Player of the Year by the WGCA for the second time in three years

Duke's Leona Maguire was thrilled and humbled to pick up her second PING Player of the Year award and ease the pain of a second NCAA Championship near miss in three years.

The world No 1 closed with a two under 70 at Rich Harvest Farms on Monday but finished one stroke behind Arizona State's Monica Vaughn, tied for second alongside overnight leader Jennifer Kupcho in the race for the coveted individual title.

Duke also failed to make the top eight teams that went on to the matchplay stages to battle it out for the team title in Illinois.

But after shedding a tear on the presentation podium following a “bitter-sweet" week, Leona (22) got a boost less than 24 hours later when she was voted the top US college player of 2017 by the Women's Golf Coaches Association (WGCA).

“It’s an incredible feeling,” said Leona, who is delighted that she decided last year to stay on at Duke University in North Carolina and graduate next summer instead of leaving early to turn professional.

"It's a special award to win. To get the vote of the coaches saying I was the best player in college golf this year is a very humbling feeling and something I am very proud of."

The Ballyconnell native had a stellar season, never finishing outside the top six in ten starts, winning three times and racking up eight top-three finishes.

To put her performance in perspective, her scoring average of 70.29 was the lowest in women's collegiate golf since Mexican superstar Lorena Ochoa won eight times in 2002.

“Ultimately I decided Duke was the best place for me,” Leona said of her decision to put the LPGA Tour on hold and complete the last two years of her studies. "It's a special place, and I have some incredible opportunities there. 

"I don't like half doing things and I wanted to finish off my time there and dedicate myself to honouring the commitment that I gave to my team and try and win a national championship with the team. 

"We didn't get it done this year but I have one more chance left, and hopefully we can do that next year."

As for finishing second in the NCAA Individual title race for the second time since 2015, she said: "It's a huge confidence boost. 

"I've had a great year so far, and it would have been huge to round it off with a win. But Monica's a great player, and I was glad I put myself in position to be up there.

"It was a little bit of deja vu back to freshman year, coming up short by one shot. But either way, coming off the course yesterday morning I was incredibly proud of what I did all year, and it was just nice to finish off in a good way.  

"College golf is just a special thing. I think coming to Duke was one of the best decisions I have ever made and one of the best decisions that I decided to stay. 

"It's not something that I wanted to give up or was ready to give up. It's four years of your life that are incredibly valuable."