Apart from everything else, the shot-making and the grit, the ability to go on a hot streak with putter in hand too, we've also learned that Leona Maguire can be trusted to keep a secret: it was last Monday that Europe's Solheim Cup captain Catriona Matthew confirmed to the Co Cavan golfer that she would be granted a wild card pick to play in next month's match in Ohio.
The truth of the matter, though, is that it would have been more of a surprise if she wasn’t on the team as Maguire’s form this season, still technically a “rookie” on tour, has elevated to the point where she has delivered at the highest level week-in and week-out.
A win may so far have eluded her, but that’s about it as 10 top-16 finishes and five top-10s, including two runners-up, in moving inside the world’s top 50 and on an upward trend made Maguire’s selection – the first by an Irish woman – for the match in Inverness Country Club in Toledo, Ohio, on September 4th-6th a no-brainer for Matthew.
And, in also acknowledging the significance of Maguire’s pioneering journey on the LPGA Tour and her Solheim Cup selection, Pádraig Harrington – Europe’s Ryder Cup captain for Whistling Straits, also next month – remarked: “We’ve had such a great history of Irish male players being picked for the Ryder Cup and, now, with Leona being selected [for the Solheim], it’s going to be great for young Irish girls playing golf to strive to follow in her footsteps.”
Harrington, who has closely observed Maguire’s career path, which has taken her from world number one amateur onto a seamless route into the professional game after her graduation from Duke University, added: “I know myself, growing up, I watched all the Ryder Cup players and that was an inspiration for me, something I could go on and do.
“So now, with Leona, she’ll be an inspiration to so many young Irish girls . . . Leona will be leading [the way] but it’s a tremendous personal achievement as she’s lived up to the reputation, the pressure and the stress [of expectation] she has faced.
“She’s being playing great golf for a long time now and it’s just great to see her getting rewarded for all her hard work with the first of hopefully many more Solheim Cup appearances.”
Maguire’s form – which included runner-up finishes in the Lotte Championship and the Meijer Classic on the LPGA Tour – has seen her rise to 43rd in the Rolex world rankings, having started the year in 177th position.
“I think, for golf in Ireland, obviously the men have been doing well the last few years, it is nice to see Leona coming to the forefront and climbing those world rankings and hopefully that will encourage young Irish girls to come up when they have a role model like to Leona to see,” said Matthew.
One of six wild card picks by Matthew, the Scottish captain – “a legend,” as Maguire described her – started texting congratulatory messages to the Cavan golfer after her second place finish in the Lotte and those texts became a recurring theme.
“At the start of the year, I probably thought I needed to win to get Beany’s (Matthew) attention but it’s been a really consistent year. Those two second place finishes really helped a lot and some really strong Majors, so yeah, all-in-all, it’s been an amazing year,” admitted Maguire.
Matthew, for her part, placed Maguire on her radar from early in the year. “I think she’s got that real grittiness. I think she’s a really good match player, has a great record in the Curtis Cup and played well in the [Bank of Hope LPGA] matchplay in Vegas. I think she’ll be a solid, one of those never-give-up type of players,” said the captain, who went with three rookies in her six picks.
Apart from Maguire, Matthew selected Finland's Matilda Castren, Denmark's Nanna Koerstz Madsen, England's Mel Reid, Sweden's Madelen Sagstrom and French player Celine Boutier. Six others – Denmark's Emily Kristine Pedersen, England's Georgia Hall and Charley Hull, Sweden's Anna Nordqvist, Germany's Sophia Popov and Spain's Carlota Ciganda – had secured automatic places through qualifying off the LET and world points tables.
Automatic qualifiers: Emily Kristine Pedersen (Den), Georgia Hall (Eng), Anna Nordqvist (Swe), Sophia Popov (Ger), Charley Hull (Eng), Carlota Ciganda (Spa).
Wild cards: Leona Maguire (Ire), Mel Reid (Eng), Celine Boutier (Fra), Matilda Castren (Fin), Madelene Sagstrom (Swe), Nanna Koerstz Madsen (Den).
Automatic qualifiers: Nelly Korda, Danielle Kang, Ally Ewing, Austin Ernst, Lexi Thompson, Jessica Korda, Megan Khang, Lizette Salas, Jennifer Kupcho.
Wild cards: Brittany Altomare, Mina Harigae, Yealimi Noh.