Leona Maguire falls just short of stunning European Masters win
World No 1 amateur makes a bogey on 18 to lose by one shot from America’s Beth Allen
World No 1 amateur Leona Maguire finished alone in second place at the ISPS HANDA Ladies European Masters at The Buckinghamshire Golf Club near London. Photograph: Tristan Jones/LET
Leona Maguire provided a glimpse into the future, as the world number one amateur fell agonisingly short of a sensational win over the professionals in the ISPS HANDA Ladies European Masters at The Buckinghamshire, outside London. The 20-year-old from Co Cavan finished runner-up, a shot shy of veteran American Beth Allen who claimed a breakthrough win on the tour.
Allen, a 34-year-old Californian, closed with a final round 67 for 276, 12 under par, to be “ecstatic”, as she put it, about finally tasting victory on the European circuit. But Maguire very nearly proved a spoilsport to Allen’s own fairytale as the Irish golfer – who has just completed her first year at Duke University where she was voted the top player on the US collegiate circuit and recipient of the Annika Sorenstam medal after a stellar season – was only deprived of a play-off by a final hole bogey.
As German Solheim Cup player Caroline Masson, who carried the 54-hole lead into the final round suffered with her putter and course management and fell away to a finishing 75, it was Allen and Maguire who emerged as the principal characters in the unfolding drama.
Having started the day four shots adrift, Maguire stood on the 18th tee as tied-leader with Allen who spent her time after finishing her round signing autographs and being photographed with spectators.
Maguire’s tee shot to the 177 yards Par 3 18th found a greenside bunker. “Sit, sit,” she encouraged the ball as it headed towards the green, only to kick on into the sand trap. She played out to 12 feet but the par-saving putt agonisingly missed and left her alone in second, although unable to pocket the second placed prize of over €50,000 which instead went to third placed Nontaya Srisawang of Thailand.
The club selection for the tee shot on the 18th provided some discussion between Maguire and her father, Declan, who was on her bag. “We didn’t really know where the wind was coming from. I thought it was downwind, dad thought it (hurting) was into the wind.
“It was probably the wrong club off the tee but I’m very proud of the way I played all day . . . I wasn’t that nervous (over the final tee shot), I hit a great shot, it was just the wrong club. I wanted to hit five, he wanted to hit four,” said Maguire.
Maguire, who has received an invite into the Evian Masters later this year – the fifth and final women’s Major of the professional season – got off to a flying start with birdies at two of her opening three holes and turned in 34 shots before rolling in a 12-footer for birdie on the 11th. After dropping a shot on the 13th for a second straight day, she responded with a birdie on the Par 5 14th where she reached the green in two and two-putted from 45 feet.
Then, on the 358 yards Par 4 17th, Maguire reached a greenside bunker with a huge drive and then got up and down to draw level on 12 under with Allen. That final hole bogey cost her the chance of a play-off but provided a hint of what lies ahead in her career.
“I was very proud of the way I played all day . . . I didn’t play at my best this week. There were glimpses of it (in the final round), so it’s definitely a huge confidence booster going into the rest of the season that I can play with the best out here.”
Allen, a popular figure on the European circuit who donated one of her kidneys to her sick brother, suffered heartbreak in this tournament in 2012 when she was passed out on the home run by Lydia Hall.
This time, she made no mistake; but the spotlight was as much on Maguire, who intends to complete her college education, before making a move into the professional ranks in three years time.