Leona Maguire getting ready to ramp up her rookie season again

Irish star will play the Scottish Open and British Open before returning to America

Irish professional golfer and Davy brand ambassador Leona Maguire pictured at Slieve Russell Golf Club in Co Cavan ahead of her return to the LPGA tour. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

Irish professional golfer and Davy brand ambassador Leona Maguire pictured at Slieve Russell Golf Club in Co Cavan ahead of her return to the LPGA tour. Photograph: Morgan Treacy/Inpho

 

Leona Maguire’s Excel spreadsheet has, in its own way, characterised the uncertainties of the past few months as – in her ‘rookie’ season on the LPGA Tour – intended destinations were never reached and her playing schedule was left with too many blank spaces after the circuit went into shutdown.

The good news? The 25-year-old Co Cavan golfer is ready to use her passport again. Maguire, a graduate of the Symetra Tour last year, won’t be in the field for the LPGA Tour’s resumption in Ohio next week; rather, given the necessity to quarantine if headed stateside for that tournament, she has decided to resume competitive tour life in Scotland, with back-to-back weeks at the Scottish Open and the AIG Women’s British Open next month.

In fact, Maguire’s automatic exemption into the British Open came because of her early-season globetrotting and a hot start to the season in LPGA Tour sanctioned events in Australia back in February, where a tied-fourth place finish in the ISPS Handa Vic Open helped her to a position of 26th on the LPGA Tour order of merit when the shutdown due to Covid-19 came. Category five of exemptions into the British Open provided for those in the top-40 on the LPGA rankings.

The option of returning to LPGA Tour action in Ohio was less tempting once she was guaranteed a place in the British Open field at Royal Troon.

“I would have had to do the two-week quarantine and then play those two events in Ohio. When I found I was getting into the British Open, I weighed up the whole schedule. So now I don’t have to quarantine and I can stay at home here and get some links practice in here for the Scottish and the British,” explained Maguire of her decision-making which mirrors that of Solheim Cup players Charley Hull and Georgia Hall in remaining on this side of the Atlantic for their resumptions of competition.

In fact, since the easing of coronavirus restrictions, Maguire has dipped her toes back into some competitive golf by playing in the Flogas Irish Scratch Series at Seapoint (winning the second event) and the BMW Irish Golfer Shootout at The K Club, one day events designed to provide one-day tournament play for the country’s professionals and elite amateurs.

“I’m trying to get sharp by playing those one-day events, getting some links practice in and just trying to make the most of it so that when we do start again in a few weeks time, I will try and hit the ground running.”

For Maguire, returning to home comforts from the United States when the effect of the pandemic caused tours to shut down proved to be a wise move.

Leona Maguire in action at last year’s Omega Dubai Moonlight Classic at Emirates Golf Club. Photograph: Tom Dulat/Getty Images
Leona Maguire in action at last year’s Omega Dubai Moonlight Classic at Emirates Golf Club. Photograph: Tom Dulat/Getty Images

“I was seeing it as an opportunity more than anything else. I was able to work on a few things and I did more gym work than if I had been on tour, stuff like that. I treated it like a second off-season, building up a good base more than anything else.

“It is going to be a busy second half of the season with a lot of events crammed into not a lot of time with a lot of travel. So I was just making sure my body is as fit and healthy as it can be for those extended periods more than anything else.”

It also gave time for extra work with her coach Shane O’Grady. “Me and Shane do a lot of video work and phone calls when I’m on tour. He’ll maybe come out twice a year, other than that it is every few weeks or months when I’m at home, so definitely I got to work on the short game with him. But it was strange during the lockdown, before the restrictions lifted, he being in Dunshaughlin and we still have to do video calls.”

Maguire learned quite a bit about herself in the off-time away from tournament play. “I’ve always thought of myself as being quite patient. But those few months tried my patience. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that, to getting a bit frustrated and impatient the first while. I suppose it is probably the competition I missed the most. As much as I love golf, love practising and all the rest, competition is what I missed most, not being able to get out and to compete.

“I did put in a lot of work, lots of short game work. I didn’t down tools too much over the lockdown, and now I am just trying to get into competition again. I’m back on the course, shaping shots, hitting off different lies. I have never been off the golf course that long since I started playing golf, since I was 10 or 11. It just takes a bit of getting your eye in.”

From months with little or no competition, Maguire, who is a brand ambassador for Davy, is set to be busy in the months ahead. The LPGA Tour has decided that players will enjoy the same status on the circuit for 2021 as they had when this season started off. However, there is one caveat attached; and that is that a win will increase a player’s status, which is plenty incentive for the run of tournaments looming, including a stockpile of Major championships.

Through it all, the LPGA Tour commissioner Mike Whan attempted to keep the tour players informed and up-to-speed as much as possible.

“There has been a lot of questions, a lot of backs and forwards, a lot of schedule updates,” revealed Maguire. “I have an Excel spreadsheet that’s changed so many times over the last weeks and months, getting added in and taken out and moving all around, updates and general rules and regulations on how life is going to be different on tour.

“There’s procedures for what you can and can’t do when you are on the ground and testing and social distance. The tour has put a lot of work in to make sure everyone is safe when we do get back out there, so that’s the good thing with the PGA Tour getting a head start. We learned a lot from what they have done.

“From my understanding we’re going to be tested on the Sunday or Monday when we arrive, take temperature before we get on site and again on screen devices when we get on the course. Player dining very limited, the LPGA Tour is talking about no fans and right now we are not allowed any guests, so just players and caddies, no coaches for the British Open, no guests, no fans.

“It’s not all that different going back to amateur golf or the Symetra Tour. It’s just a scaled-back version. But golf is going to be the same, that’s the good thing. We’re going to be going out and trying to play as well as you can and I suppose all the bells and whistles that maybe go along with the tour aren’t going to be there. I suppose I am lucky that I haven’t gotten too used to them yet anyway, what you don’t know you don’t miss.”

Maguire’s return to life on tour will get under way on two famed Scottish links, North Berwick and Royal Troon. The Scottish Open on August 13th-16th is actually co-sanctioned on the LPGA Tour and the Ladies European Tour while the British Open the following week also counts on both. When that’s done, it will be off on a chartered flight to Arkansas for the Walmart Championship and a run of events in the United States that will make up for lost time.

And of playing behind closed doors? “I am used to staying in my own bubble and doing my own thing, so it will not be too much of an adjustment for me I don’t think. But it will be nice when the spectators return. Hopefully, this is an opportunity for the ladies’ game to get a bit more TV time, to reach a wider audience.”

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