Leona Maguire: the 26-year-old who shocked the golf world as unbeaten Solheim Cup rookie


Earlier than Friday’s first tee shot, she was only a Solheim rookie hoping to make her mark on the match.

By Monday afternoon, she was being touted as the subsequent massive factor in golf.

Maguire had performed a significant function in Europe’s 15-13 win over the US on the Solheim Cup — golf’s biennial match, which pits the very best skilled ladies’s golfers from Europe and the US in opposition to one another.

On her debut look in what many see as the head of the game, the primary Irishwoman ever to play within the occasion was each undefeated and in addition Europe’s prime scorer with four-and-a-half factors.

Such was Maguire’s dominance on the course, US captain Pat Hurst might solely concede to her greatness.

“She is the one we’re going to need to concern for a very long time,” Hurst mentioned.

Listening to one thing like that from a “legend” of the sport in Hurst is a “humbling” expertise for Maguire, and he or she admits she’s already centered on qualifying for the 2023 version of the match in Spain.

Upon her arrival again in Eire after the Solheim Cup in September, Maguire obtained a hero’s welcome, specifically, in her hometown of Cavan.

Followers lined the streets waving Irish flags, and a hearth engine with an Irish flag on the entrance led the convoy of vehicles whereas Maguire — from the again of a convertible BMW with the license plate “LEONA” — confirmed her appreciation to those that had come out to cheer and welcome her residence.

“It has been an extended journey and I could not have achieved it with out the assist of everybody right here in the area people,” mentioned Maguire, after the exhilarating experience by her hometown had ended.

And after having a while to mirror on her achievements in Ohio and the reception she bought upon her return, the 26-year-old described all of it as “unbelievable.”

“I wasn’t anticipating something form of near that. We knew we had unbelievable assist at residence, cheering us on,” Maguire advised CNN Sport. “However to see that was actually particular; it was a particular factor for me to be part of.

“Irish followers are identified for being among the greatest on this planet, and I actually felt that assist as quickly as I bought residence. And so many individuals congratulated me, messaging me. Lots of people that by no means usually would watch golf appeared to tune in to the Solheim Cup and simply to see the form of pleasure and the thrill round the place I am from and across the whole nation about golf and ladies’s sport, I believe was very nice.

“And I suppose it has been a tricky two years for lots of people and to see folks form of smile once more and looking out ahead to one thing and one thing to take pleasure in is very nice for them.”

Representing

The inexperienced programs of Eire are the place Maguire discovered her love for the sport, but when issues had turned out in a different way, it might’ve been the blue swimming pools the place she would have made her title.

Aged roughly 10, Maguire was given the selection between specializing in golf or a promising swimming profession. She determined in opposition to swimming as a result of she knew she “was by no means going to be a six-foot swimmer” and he or she was additionally taking to golf fairly rapidly.

Between herself and her twin sister, Lisa — who’s quarter-hour older — they each shot onto {the golfing} scene. The truth is, as 10-year-olds, Leona completed runner-up behind Lisa on the Younger Masters Golf Junior Sequence at La Manga in Spain in 2005.

Only a 12 months later, the Maguire twins have been chosen to carry the Ryder Cup on stage throughout the closing ceremony of the 2006 Ryder Cup on the Ok Membership in Eire as Europe celebrated a memorable victory.

As her {golfing} profession blossomed, she rose by the ladies’s newbie golf rankings, hitting the highest spot for a complete of 135 weeks, the longest keep at no. 1 in historical past.

She and her sister each represented Europe in two Junior Solheim Cups in 2009 and 2011, though the US gained on each events.

Maguire and her sister, Lisa, walk up a fairway together during the foursomes at the 2011 Junior Solheim Cup at Knightsbrook Hotel and Golf Resort on September 20, 2011 in Trim, Ireland.

Nevertheless, whereas plenty of male Irish gamers have represented Europe’s Ryder Cup — reminiscent of Shane Lowry this 12 months — Maguire was thrilled to turn out to be the primary Irishwoman to look within the Solheim Cup, one thing she says she has “dreamt about for a very long time.”

“Hopefully, it is impressed a youthful technology of Irish golfers to aspire to someday be within the Solheim Cup or no matter sport there’s,” she mentioned.

“I believe anytime you are the primary to do something, break these glass ceilings is one thing particular. It is not one thing I in all probability will dwell on an excessive amount of proper now. However after I look again in possibly 20, 30 years after my profession is throughout, it is positively going to be a spotlight.

“It was among the best weeks of my life, for positive. And simply the assist from again residence, I do know there’s lots of people form of speaking about actually wanting an Irish Open again and if what I did on the Solheim Cup encourages yet another little lady to play golf, then that is improbable.”

Since turning skilled in the summertime of 2018, Maguire has gone from energy to energy, claiming her first two professional wins a 12 months in a while the Symetra Tour, the developmental tour of the Women Skilled Golf Affiliation (LPGA) Tour.

Her outcomes on the majors additionally reached a career-best in 2021, ending tied-sixth on the Evian Championship in July, whereas ending within the top-20 at each the Girls’s British Open and the Girls’s PGA Championship.

Maguire walks down the first hole with her caddie during the final day of the Women's Open at Carnoustie Golf Links.

Days to recollect

A Solheim rookie, her debut look could not have are available in a extra daunting setting.

Touring to play within the US in entrance of that residence crowd is at all times intimidating, however as a result of Covid-19 journey restrictions, even fewer European followers might make it to Ohio, that means almost 100% followers in attendance have been from the US.

Nevertheless, Maguire admits her greenness would possibly’ve performed into her favor in that occasion. “I suppose it is like one thing I’ve by no means skilled earlier than,” she mentioned.

“Perhaps, it was a very good factor that I had no thought what to anticipate, that I have never form of seen what it is prefer to play a Solheim Cup in Europe and have all of the assist. You are not used to folks cheering while you miss a putt or miss fairways. However to be truthful for essentially the most half, the crowds are very respectable. You could possibly inform they have been actual golf followers.”

And she or he was thrown into the deep finish proper from the beginning, being paired with Mel Reid, a veteran of three earlier Solheim Cups, in opposition to world No. 1 Nelly Korda and her sister Jessica in Saturday morning’s foursomes.

The 2 confirmed no indicators of nerves, beating the sisters to get Europe off to an ideal begin and quiet the crowds.

For 3 of her matches on Saturday and Sunday, Maguire was paired with Reid. Though they “hadn’t actually spent any time collectively or performed collectively earlier than that,” it labored a deal with for Maguire and her European staff because the pair gained two-and-a-half factors from a attainable three collectively.

“It simply, it felt proper, just about immediately. We felt very comfy with one another. I believe our video games actually complement one another. Mel has quite a lot of expertise below her belt, and he or she went out of her strategy to ensure that I used to be as comfy as I could possibly be on the golf course. And we simply gelled very well collectively, and I actually could not have requested for a greater accomplice for my first Solheim Cup.”

After beating the Kordas in her opening match, Maguire and Georgia Corridor beat Yealimi Noh and Brittany Altomare in Saturday afternoon’s fourballs.

Maguire plays her shot from the seventh tee during a foursomes match on day two of the Solheim Cup.

On Sunday, she claimed one other one-and-a-half factors over the 2 periods. However even Maguire was shocked at what number of occasions she was being chosen to exit and play.

“There’s a lot happening, there’s so many issues happening that week. You are driving on adrenaline, you are simply centered on getting that one level, no matter match you are in and you do not have time to essentially take into consideration the match that is simply gone or a possible match developing.

“I did not count on to be taking part in that (Sunday) afternoon, that second fourball match and Suzanne (Pettersen) got here as much as me and Mel on I believe it was on the thirteenth gap and mentioned: ‘You two are going once more.’ And so I sort of needed to form of end that match off and mentally put together to go once more.

“So in the end, as a rookie, I by no means anticipated to be taking part in 5 matches, not in 1,000,000 years. And it was an honor that Beanie (Catriona Matthew) trusted me that a lot to place me out in 5 video games, and I used to be taking it one match at a time figuring out that doubtlessly that might have been my final match.”

She claimed a key level in her singles match to interrupt the all-time rookie factors report in both the Solheim Cup or the Ryder Cup and to make sure that she bought the flight again to Eire as a “Solheim Cup winner.”

Not unhealthy for a rookie.



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