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Peter Lawrie named rookie of the year

Peter Lawrie has made history by becoming the first Irish golfer to be named the European Tour's rookie of the year since its inception in 1960, the tour said on Tuesday.

The 29-year-old Dubliner, who was selected by a panel comprising the European Tour, the Royal and Ancient Golf Club of St Andrews and the Association of Golf Writers, finished 56th in the 2003 European order of merit.

Yet to win his first European Tour title after being edged out by England's Kenneth Ferrie in a playoff for the Canaries Spanish Open in April, Lawrie still ended the season with six top-20 finishes and earnings of 422,817 euros ($485,200).

Although Lawrie becomes the 39th recipient of this cherished award, it was not a vintage year for European rookies as the Dublin man missed 17 cuts in his 32 starts.

However Lawrie, who turned professional in 1997 but only graduated to the European Tour after winning last year's Challenge Tour grand final, follows in the footsteps of players like Nick Faldo and Jose Maria Olazabal.

Six-times major winner Faldo won the European rookie of the year award in 1977 while twice U.S. Masters champion Olazabal sealed the honour in 1986.

"This is a great accolade and, when you look at the great players who have won it in the past, it makes me feel very proud," Lawrie, the 1996 Irish amateur champion, said in a statement."

"I...was amazed to discover that no Irishman had ever won it, especially when you think of how well people like Darren Clarke and Padraig Harrington played early in their careers on the European Tour."

Other former winners of the award include Englishman Tony Jacklin (1963), Scots Sandy Lyle (1978) and Colin Montgomerie (1988), Denmark's Thomas Bjorn (1996) and Spaniard Sergio Garcia (1999).

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