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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 large 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 most effective skilled girls’s golfers from Europe and the US towards 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 may solely concede to her greatness.

“She is the one we’re going to should worry for a very long time,” Hurst stated.

Listening to one thing like that from a “legend” of the sport in Hurst is a “humbling” expertise for Maguire, and she or he 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, particularly, 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 a protracted journey and I could not have accomplished it with out the help of everybody right here in the local people,” stated Maguire, after the exhilarating journey by means of her hometown had ended.

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

“I wasn’t anticipating something kind of near that. We knew we had unbelievable help at residence, cheering us on,” Maguire advised Muricas Information 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 a few of the finest on the earth, and I actually felt that help as quickly as I acquired 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 kind of pleasure and the thrill round the place I am from and across the whole nation about golf and ladies’s sport, I feel was very nice.

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

Maguire is introduced to the crowd at halftime of the GAA Football All-Ireland Senior Championship Final match between Mayo and Tyrone at Croke Park in Dublin.

Representing

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

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

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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 yr later, the Maguire twins had been chosen to deliver 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 means of 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 received 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 a variety of male Irish gamers have represented Europe’s Ryder Cup — equivalent to Shane Lowry this yr — Maguire was thrilled to develop into the primary Irishwoman to seem within the Solheim Cup, one thing she says she has “dreamt about for a very long time.”

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

“I feel anytime you are the primary to do something, break these glass ceilings is one thing particular. It isn’t one thing I most likely will dwell on an excessive amount of proper now. However after I look again in perhaps 20, 30 years after my profession is throughout, it is undoubtedly going to be a spotlight.

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

Since turning skilled in the summertime of 2018, Maguire has gone from power to power, claiming her first two professional wins a yr afterward 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 a extra daunting setting.

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

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

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

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And he or she was thrown into the deep finish proper from the beginning, being paired with Mel Reid, a veteran of three earlier Solheim Cups, towards 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 received two-and-a-half factors from a doable three collectively.

“It simply, it felt proper, just about immediately. We felt very snug with one another. I feel our video games actually complement one another. Mel has loads of expertise below her belt, and she or he went out of her option to make it possible for I used to be as snug 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 companion 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 classes. However even Maguire was stunned 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 actually take into consideration the match that is simply gone or a possible match arising.

“I did not anticipate 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 feel it was on the thirteenth gap and stated: ‘You two are going once more.’ And so I form of needed to kind 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 probably that might have been my final match.”

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

Not unhealthy for a rookie.

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