A familiar face received the honor for top player in Division I women’s college golf Wednesday, as Duke’s Leona Maguire was named the 2017 winner of the ANNIKA Award Presented by 3M.
The incoming Blue Devils senior captured the award for the second time in three years, first earning the honor in 2015 thanks to a breakout freshman campaign.
The award is voted on by college golfers, coaches and members of the golf media. UCLA’s Alison Lee was the inaugural winner in 2014, followed by Maguire in ’15 and UCLA’s Bronte Law the following year.
And now it’s Maguire again, as the Duke player becomes the first two-time winner of the honor.
“This award is a huge honor for me,” Maguire said on Golf Channel. “It’s something I’m very, very proud of to get the opportunity to win again.”
Even more remarkable: Maguire earns the honor in a season that at one point appeared it would be cut off.
As the fall portion of the season ended, Maguire appeared she might not even be eligible for the award by the conclusion of 2016-17. After all, the Irishwoman was in the midst of LPGA Q-School and looking good to get through and turn pro.
Instead, Maguire dropped out of the final stage and announced she would stay at Duke with plans to graduate in May of 2018.
Once she returned this spring, Maguire ramped up her domination.
After a fall that included top-three finishes in all three starts, Maguire added on three victories in the spring and never produced a result worse than T-6.
That would be T-6 or better finishes in all 10 of her 2016-17 starts. But that doesn’t do the season full justice. Maguire had three wins, two seconds and three thirds in 2016-17. One of those wins was an ACC Championship triumph, and Maguire tied for second at the NCAA Championship.
Maguire ended the season No. 1 in the Golfweek/Sagarin women’s college rankings and her 70.29 scoring average was the lowest single-season scoring average in Division I women’s college golf since Lorena Ochoa posted a 70.13 average for the 2001-02 season.
Maguire had previously been named the 2017 Women’s Golf Coaches Association National Player of the Year.
While by the numbers this is Maguire’s best season yet at Duke, the Irishwoman has also been revered for her unbelievable consistency as a Blue Devil.
Maguire’s freshman ANNIKA-winning season also produced three wins, and just one of her finishes in 2014-15 was outside the top 10. Her sophomore year was considered a down campaign, yet Maguire still had a win and six total top-10 finishes in nine starts.
In 30 stroke-play events in college, Maguire has seven wins and 26 top-10 finishes.
Her consistently high play amazes her own teammates.
Duke’s Virginia Elena Carta, the 2016 NCAA Division I individual champion, noted that there’s no secret to Maguire’s success: Hard work.
A simple concept, but Maguire’s level of devotion is painstaking and hardly matched. Carta said Maguire has the rare mix of high quality AND quantity in her practice sessions.
And Maguire is up for anything. Remember that cold, windy and rainy nightmare of a first round that greeted competitors at last month’s NCAA Women’s Championship? Maguire had already experienced that in a way.
One day last spring, teammates were playing a casual round at Duke University Golf Club but cold, rainy, windy conditions came down. All of the team members decided to bag the round and go inside … except Leona Maguire (and twin sister and teammate Lisa).
That’s Leona Maguire: Relentless. One of the junior’s three victories this season was a tie for first in February at the Northrop Grumman Regional Challenge. Carta thought her teammate would be thrilled with the performance – Maguire’s first win of the season – but Maguire was instead unimpressed with the shared title.
“She knew she could have done much better than that,” Carta said. “She always tries to improve no matter what.”
Maguire can still improve after two ANNIKA wins in three years? That’s a scary proposition.