Leona Maguire knows staying put was the right choice as rookie season halted

Niall Horan and Paul McGinley among those to advise golfer not to travel to the US

Leona Maguire’s  is confined to the back garden for practice, where she can hit up to a seven-iron. Photograph:  Conor McCabe Photography.

Leona Maguire’s is confined to the back garden for practice, where she can hit up to a seven-iron. Photograph: Conor McCabe Photography.

 

In her rookie season on the LPGA Tour, Leona Maguire’s quick getaway – a tied-fourth finish in the ISPS Handa Vic Open, in just her second start – ultimately met the same fate as all others, young and old, in running into a brick wall, for the time being, with no timeline on when or where her season will resume.

Yet, as the 25-year-old Co Cavan golfer is the first to admit, “there are bigger things going on in the world.”

For now, Maguire at least has the comfort of homes values – keeping fit with some gym work and with a back field sufficiently large to hit up to a seven-iron – following the advice of, among others, singer Niall Horan, who is co-founder of her management company Modest Golf, and Paul McGinley to stay put rather than risk taking a flight stateside in the hope that the LPGA Tour would resume any time soon. Wisely, she stayed at home.

“When I was getting ready to head back to the States, [Niall] was in LA so I was chatting to him about what the situation was as we were supposed to play events in Arizona, San Diego and Palm Springs. He was one of the ones who advised me to stay in Ireland. He was heading home to London. California was one of the areas worst hit. He’s kind of in the same boat, he was getting ready to tour with a new album, concerts all over the world. Everything’s on hold for him now too,” said Maguire, who also had a phone call from LPGA Tour commissioner Mike Whan in helping her make that decision.

The LPGA Tour has postponed or cancelled all tournaments up to the Pelican Championship in Florida on May 14th-17th, but even that would appear highly optimistic for any resumption in tournament play. The Olympics has been put back a year, while at least three of the Majors, the ANA Inspiration, the US Open and the Evian, are moving to later dates in the calendar.

“Nobody really knows, it’s just a guessing game for all of us right now. The LPGA Tour has told us they’re going to evaluate three events at a time. I suppose we have to practice and train as if that Florida event is going ahead.

Leona Maguire hits her tee shot on the third hole during the first round for the 65th KPMG Women’s PGA Championship at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minnesota last summer. Photograph: Darren Carroll/PGA of America via Getty Images
Leona Maguire hits her tee shot on the third hole during the first round for the 65th KPMG Women’s PGA Championship at Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, Minnesota last summer. Photograph: Darren Carroll/PGA of America via Getty Images

“Obviously the US is the epicentre of the virus right now, so you don’t know what’s going to happen over there. I mean, you just have to be prepared as best you can. It’s not ideal, but if we’re ready to go in May, I’ll be ready to play. It’s just extra time to fine-tune things and get some extra time in the gym. I’m just treating it like a second off-season, even though this off-season might be longer than the [winter] one.”

Maguire, speaking on a media conference call in her role as an ambassador for Davy, added: “The LPGA will be there when all of this is over. The important thing now is staying safe and healthy, as much as we’d all love to be out playing.”

Into her first season on the main circuit, having graduated off the Symetra Tour where she claimed two tournament wins, Maguire’s approach hasn’t changed much from the time she was the long-time world number one on the amateur rankings: it is to aim high when the season eventually restarts.

“It will be important to hit the ground running because we won’t have a full schedule, or there won’t be as many events as usual to finish out the season . . . I know from experience last year that the two wins [on the Symetra Tour] were massive, helped me jump up the money list more rather than having top-10s or top-20s, so definitely big finishes are a huge help.

“The big finish in the Vic Open gives me a nice leg-up on the money list (26th), it helps to have a few big weeks. [Pádraig] Harrington or [Paul] McGinley told me that golfers make 90 per cent of their money in 10 per cent of the year and the other 10 per cent in 90 per cent of the year, so that you have to take your chances when they come along.”

Maguire’s time currently revolves around doing some work on her game – drills, putting, sending videos back and forth to coach Shane O’Grady, utilising the field behind the family home and sharpening up with short game challenges against sister Lisa and brother Odhrán – and time on Netflix, board games and card games.

“It’s making the most of it; everybody is really in the same boat . . . this was supposed to be a big learning year for me on the LPGA Tour but it’s not the learning curve I had in mind.”

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