Leona Maguire on the globe-trotting golf circuit: ‘We always joke that we’d make a very good Netflix series’

Incremental improvement has always been the way for Cavan’s globe-trotting golfer who has the Olympics and four Majors on her upcoming busy agenda

A flying visit home before the busiest of summers.

“Mam always jokes that I get on planes the way she used to get on buses when she was younger,” says Leona Maguire.

Cavan “will always be home,” she says, “I don’t think I’ll ever live in America”, her ties to her family, friends and her county running deep. But high on her list of pleasures when she gets back are “my own bed”, “normal food”, namely her mother’s Sunday dinner – “that’s always on the menu, regardless of what day of the week I fly in” – and going to Cavan matches with her dad.

Your hopes for the championship?


“Paddy Lynch doing his ACL is a big blow, but they nearly got the better of Tyrone. They’re in that group now with Dublin,” she winces. “But there’s always hope in Cavan. We have nothing if we don’t have hope.”

She had no little hope herself when she set sail for the United States a decade ago this year, herself and twin sister Lisa taking up scholarships at Duke University in North Carolina, the ultimate ambition to become a professional golfer. And it’s six years next month since she achieved that very feat.

She’s not, she says, one to look back, there’s too much thinking to do about the present, but “people always say you should smell the roses”. So, those anniversaries have her in a reflective mood.

She’s recalling milestones, the momentous days, like her first LPGA victory in 2022. But life changed for her, she says, after her performances for Europe at the 2021 Solheim Cup when she broke the all-time rookie points record.

“It just gave me a huge amount of confidence, knowing that I could perform on the biggest stage, and when I needed to, I could hit the shots. Until then, I feel like people knew me in Europe, knew me in Ireland, but not so much in the States.

“I’ve never been someone who’s in their element being the centre of attention, so yeah, there was definitely an adjustment after Toledo. I remember being at a Pro-Am the Wednesday after and instead of having to introduce myself to people, as I usually would – “Hello, I’m Leona Maguire, I’m from Ireland, I went to Duke” – they already knew who I was. Before, they would have had to Google me. And there was lots of media attention too, so, yeah, everything changed.

“But I suppose all along the way there were things you had to adapt to. I went from watching Inbee Park and Michelle Wie and all these players on TV every week, to all of a sudden being on the range beside them when I turned pro. Some players get intimidated by that, but I’ve always been very confident in what I’m about and what my game’s about. I never try to be something I’m not. Sometimes when young players turn pro, they sort of lose their identity a little bit, they do try to be something they’re not, they try to keep people happy. I stick to who I am.”

What makes Maguire happiest when she reflects on her career to date is the fun and excitement it has brought her family, no day standing out more than when her now 97-year-old grandmother Kathleen Maguire accompanied her in an open-top car for her homecoming parade in her native Ballyconnell after that 2021 Solheim display.

“Now, riding around Ballyconnell in a gold BMW is not really my style, but having Granny beside me made it special. She was in her element, waving to everybody, we felt like we were grand marshals in the Patrick’s Day parade.

“It was right at the end of Covid and she hadn’t seen many people during lockdown. That sort of marked the reopening of things. Seeing everybody out and about again and lining the streets, getting to catch up with people, that’s something we’ll not forget.

“And that’s been the lovely thing for me. Granny constantly has people coming up to her, whether it’s after Mass on a Sunday or during the week, asking her how I’m doing. She has Facebook and Instagram and her iPad, so she keeps tabs on all the grandchildren. She’ll read through the comments to see what people are saying about me. She’s a great woman for 97.”

Does she get into online arguments with anyone?

“No. Well, not yet. But maybe when she’s 98 she’ll graduate to that.”

Keeping track of Maguire’s movements can be a dizzying exercise.

“You can go from Singapore to Thailand to America to home in the space of a few days. Hanging around airports, delays, lost bags and all that, that’s no craic. But I couldn’t imagine myself doing anything else. There was no line on the CAO form for ‘professional golfer’, but I couldn’t see myself sitting in an office from nine to five. I always say that I have the best office in the world, it changes every week. And I’ve got to see places I would never dreamt of seeing without golf.

“And there are the friendships you make as well. And a lot of my best friends now are golfers. Nobody knows what you’re going through better than them. We always call it a bit of a travelling circus. The Irish, the Scots and the Aussies tend to hang out together, we travel together, stay together, go to dinner together and help each other out when things go wrong.”

Is it easy to make friends on the tour, or does the competitive edge make some players more distant?

“Both. There are 144 girls battling it out every week. I went to an all-girls secondary school, Loreto in Cavan, and it’s like that. There’ll always be cliques. There’ll always be people you get along with better than others.”

Any, you know, bitchiness?

“We always joke that we’d make a very good Netflix series . . . but I don’t know how much of the behind-the-scenes stuff you could actually show.”

Name names.


Maguire has been playing golf since in or around the time she learned to stand up. It was fun back then, but can it still be fun when it’s your job?

“Well, I don’t get up in the morning and be like, ‘ah, I have to go practice’. I do genuinely still enjoy it. There’s always something different. There’s always a new shot to learn or something to work on. Different grasses or different weather conditions. So, thankfully, I haven’t got to the point where I’m ever bored with it. Just when you think you’ve figured it out, it comes back and humbles you. And I suppose growing up with a twin sister, I was always competitive. So golf kind of satisfies that.”

If you need any further evidence of what a rollercoaster of a career this can be, in Maguire’s last two outings she finished runner-up to world number one Nelly Korda at the T-Mobile Match Play in Las Vegas, before missing her first cut in a Major in four years at the Chevron Championship in Texas.

“And I went in with high hopes because I was playing well. I was disappointed. I was angry. I was frustrated. But that’s when the team around you become so important. They encourage you to see the bigger picture, that there’s always another tournament just around the corner. It’s not like some sports where you have one World Championships every four years.

“A good sense of humour comes in handy too, it’s very easy to take it too seriously. Yes, it’s our job, but it is a game at the end of the day – and you do have to look on the brighter side of life. I try to stay as level as I can, not get too high with the highs, nor too low with the lows. And my pro career so far has never been massive jumps, it’s always been quite methodical, bit by bit by bit by bit. That has probably helped me stay level.”

For relief from it all, she takes to the water on her beloved paddle board.

“And the best thing is that you’ve no phone, you’ve no nothing, you’re off the radar for a little bit. I don’t know what it is, but being around the water has a calming sense for me, no matter where I am, back home on the lakes or where I live in Orlando.”

She’s back in action in New Jersey next week, and between now and August she’ll take on four Majors. In the middle of it all is a likely third Olympics appearance. Growing up, she was a talented swimmer, and that’s the only way she ever imagined making it to the Games – until golf was reintroduced to the 2016 programme.

“Rio was an incredible experience. You just feel – and I know this is a cliche – that you’re part of something so much bigger than yourself. The most special part was the camaraderie with the other athletes on the Irish team. And coming from such an individual sport, I love being part of a team. It’s funny, when you win a golf tournament, it’s just you and your caddie left behind, everybody else clears out, the place is just empty. It’s dead.

“That’s what I love about the Solheim Cup, your team-mates, the crowd cheering your every shot. Then you go to your next event, you hit a shot and you’re waiting for the roar. There’s nothing. It’s almost . . . not deflating, but that support is addictive. That adrenaline rush and the buzz. That’s part of what I love about the Olympics, the feeling that you have a whole team around you, supporting you.”

Is her granny hoping for another day in the sun, in the form of a Major or an Olympic medal?

“Well, she knows she’s not getting a wedding out of me any time soon, so a parade is probably the closest we’ll go.”

Kathleen has nothing if she doesn’t have hope. A gold BMW at the ready, just in case.