Leona Maguire named Irish Times/Sport Ireland Sportswoman for February

Golfer became the first Irish player to win on the LPGA Tour

“Seventeen years in the making,” said Leona Maguire of her triumph at the Drive On Championship in Florida last month, “and you kind of wondered if it was ever going to happen.”

If she had doubts, she was probably alone, most Maguire-watchers reckoning it was only a matter of time before she became the first Irish player to win on the LPGA Tour, such is her talent.

She came agonisingly close in 2021, finishing runner-up twice, bringing to seven the number of top 10 finishes she’d collected since making her LPGA Tour debut in January 2020.

And, of course, her remarkable performances for Europe at last year’s Solheim Cup, when she broke the rookie scoring record, gave another glimpse of her gifts.


She’s closing in on another record, too, one which, need it be said, is the most illustrious of all – she has now been named sportswoman of the month in these awards more times than any Irish woman except Katie Taylor.

Taylor has 15 awards to her name, Maguire now up to 11, her first coming a whole 15 years ago when, as a 12-year-old, she and her twin Lisa first caught our attention.

Back then, the judges agonised about choosing such a young girl for an award, but both she and Lisa were impossible to ignore, Leona becoming the youngest player to win the Hermitage Scratch Cup that year and the pair becoming the youngest to compete in a Ladies European Tour event when they played in the Northern Ireland Open.

And the awards have kept on rolling in ever since, right through her outstanding amateur career, and her record 135 weeks at the top of the rankings, and on in to the professional ranks.

Maguire is still to win the overall award, though, but has made the shortlist time and again. In any other year, her Solheim Cup displays might well have been enough to add her name to that particular roll of honour, Rachael Blackmore’s magical 2021 getting in the way.

She will, most certainly, be on the shortlist again this year, and if she strikes gold in any of the five Majors, it could well be a shortlist of one.

Her win in Florida not only sent her in the top 20 of the world rankings for the first time, it earned her an exemption in to the Majors, the first of which is The Chevron which takes place at Rancho Mirage in California later this month.

Before then, she’ll be in action at this week’s LPGA Thailand Championship and the JTBC Classic in California a week ahead of The Chevron. No rest.

“I’ve worked my way up the levels every time,” she said after that maiden LPGA win. “It’s been a meticulous journey. I did it my way, the way I wanted to do it.”

Previous Monthly Winner

The awards run from December 2021 to November 2022, inclusive.

December: Ellen Walshe (Swimming). The 20-year-old Dubliner became the first Irish woman to medal at a World Championships and the first ever, male or female, to do so in an Olympic event when she took silver in the 400m Individual Medley at the World Short Course Championships in Abu Dhabi. Along the way, she broke five Irish records, smashing the longest standing one, Michelle Smith's 1994 400m Individual Medley mark.

January: Lucy Mulhall (Rugby). The Wicklow woman captained Ireland to their first ever HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series final in Seville where they were two minutes away from beating Australia, before conceding two late tries. It was a hugely encouraging run of results by Ireland, which lifted them to fifth in the world rankings, Mulhall leading from the front and earning a place in the team of the tournament.

Mary Hannigan

Mary Hannigan

Mary Hannigan is a sports writer with The Irish Times