Leona Maguire holds nerve to win playoff and full Ladies’ European Tour card

Cavan golfer wins at first hole against Sweden’s Sarah Nilsson

Leona Maguire secured a Ladies European Tour card for 2019.

Leona Maguire secured a Ladies European Tour card for 2019.

 

After a marathon five rounds of play at the Ladies’ European Tour Final Qualifying School at Marrakesh in Morocco, Leona Maguire was required to go the extra step to complete her mission. And the 24-year-old Co Cavan player’s birdie at the first extra hole against Sweden’s Sarah Nilsson ensured she earned a prime tour card for the 2019 season.

England’s Bronte Law completed her impressive form to lead final qualifying with a closing 67 for a record tournament low total of 26-under-par 334, which gave her a one-shot winning margin over Sweden’s Linnea Strom. Germany’s Esther Henseleit (64 for 342) and England’s Sian Evans (67 for 344) also won full playing rights, while Maguire’s final round 67 for 347 left her in a share of fifth with Nilsson.

With only the top five players earning Category 5c status, which secures entry into the majority of tournaments on next season’s LET circuit, Maguire and Nilsson were dispatched back out onto the course to fight it out for the prized fifth card.

And Maguire’s 15-footer for birdie at the first tie hole – her 91st hole of the gruelling five-day tournament – ensured she took the main prize, with Nilsson having to settle for Category 8 membership with a more limited playing itinerary. Maguire’s fist-pump to herself as the ball rolled into the cup showed what it meant to her.

Maguire posted five birdies – at the sixth, eighth, 10th, 12th and 16th – in a bogey-free 67 final round before adding the critical extra birdie at the first playoff hole to guarantee her full tour card. The €900 payday, on this occasion, wasn’t as important as the precious ticket onto the LET which enables her to start earning Solheim Cup points too.

“I’m delighted. I knew going into the playoff that that one spot would make a huge difference for next year. I’m just delighted that I could birdie it and get that fifth spot. I’m excited to play with some new golfers in new places.

“I think I’ll go home and enjoy Christmas with the family and plan my schedule in the new year. I’d like to win an event. [2019] is my first [full] year as a pro and so it will be nice to get my first year under my belt and see where that takes me,” said Maguire.

Maguire also has a Symetra Tour card stateside for next season, which she can play in her bid to earn a path onto the LPGA Tour, but securing her full LET card means the former world number one – who turned professional last June after graduating from Duke University – can play a more expansive global schedule and can also earn qualifying points for the European Solheim Cup team for the match against the USA at Gleneagles next September.

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