Women’s Irish Open: Leona Maguire makes a late charge to energise the atmosphere

After a bogey on 13th, Maguire’s chances transformed with a run of birdie-birdie-eagle-birdie to propel her inside the top 20

Every castle deserves some type of royal presence. Maybe the supporter – clearly of Leona Maguire – got it right. “Queen of Cavan,” went the printed polo shirt proudly worn across broad shoulders. And, on a day when it took a while for the world number 17 to click into gear, there was no doubting the mood swing among Maguire’s many followers when a late run of birdie-birdie-eagle-birdie transformed her round (and her chances) in the KPMG Women’s Irish Open at Dromoland Castle.

Maguire’s late charge energised the atmosphere around the lakes and amid the trees, her 69 for a midway total of four-under-par 140 propelling her inside the top 20 – on to the same mark as Olivia Mehaffey – and six shots adrift of 36-holes leader Diksha Dagar, of India.

“It’s doable,” said Maguire, with a smile, aware that last year she trailed the leader by 10 at the midpoint and finished only one shot outside of a playoff. Still, there’s work to be done if the electricity is to be further charged over the weekend.

Indeed, Maguire’s impressive move – having patiently plotted her way around with little reward until a bogey on the 13th, after finding an unpleasant lie in the front greenside bunker, kick-started a resurgence, with birdies on the 14th and 15th, a brilliant eagle on the 16th from seven feet, and a birdie on the 17th – enabled her to get right into the business part of affairs.


“It is just patience. It would have been very easy to let that round go and spiral out [of control],” admitted Maguire, who has had huge demands on her this week as the poster girl of the tournament.

At least her move up the field would lead to a later tee time. “Breakfast is nice up in the castle so I will be able to have that again in the morning. Look, there’s a lot of demand on my time this week, I suppose, but it’s a good position to be in that people want to talk to me and want balls signed and want pictures taken. There will come a day when that won’t happen so I might as well enjoy it,” said Maguire.

And it wasn’t just a one-woman show. The cast of characters extended to another good day’s work from Mehaffey (who added a 71 to her opening 69 to also be on 140), while the elite Irish amateurs made the most of invitations to the Ladies European Tour event with four of them – Kate Lanigan (69 for 141), Sara Byrne (68 for 142), Emma Fleming (72 for 145) and Beth Coulter (72 for 145) – joining the two professionals into the second half of the tournament.

“It’s a brilliant opportunity for them. A lot of them have stayed back a week before returning to college, so it’s great they made the cut and hopefully we can all put on a nice show at the weekend,” observed Maguire.

Certainly, it was an impressive collective performance from the Irish amateurs, none more so than Lanigan – in tied-29th – as the BESS graduate from Trinity College who had been two over through three holes of her opening round.

“It’s mad,” said Lanigan, adding: “It feels like ages ago that I was two over through three holes, just trying to keep an embarrassing number off the card. The goal obviously was to make the cut. I’ll sit down now and give myself a goal for the next few days, see if I can get top-20, top-25 – something like that would be unbelievable. I’ll have to see if I can re-evaluate the goals,” said the 22-year-old member of Hermitage.

The biggest casualty of the cut – which fell on 145 – was Solheim Cup player Caroline Hedwall, who put her approach into the water hazard on the ninth – her closing hole – for a finishing bogey which saw the Swede narrowly miss out by one shot.

Philip Reid

Philip Reid

Philip Reid is Golf Correspondent of The Irish Times