'Let's go' - Leona Maguire helps Europe into Solheim Cup lead

Cavan golfer belies rookie tag to notch three and a half points out of four

 Mel Reid  and Leona Maguire celebrate winning the   14th hole of their  foursomes match on day two of the Solheim Cup at the Inverness Club. Photograph:  Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

Mel Reid and Leona Maguire celebrate winning the 14th hole of their foursomes match on day two of the Solheim Cup at the Inverness Club. Photograph: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

 

What was it that Sam Torrance used to say about sometimes a hero emerging from the shadows in Ryder Cup conflict?

How about someone doing likewise in the Solheim Cup? How about Leona Maguire? Certainly, she’s not one for hiding, claiming the spotlight with an unbeaten run through four sessions of her maiden appearance in the sport’s team showpiece.

For the first two days of the 17th edition of the match at Inverness Country Club in Toledo, Ohio, no player played as much – all four sessions – or impacted as much as the 26-year-old Co Cavan golfer, making her mark not just as a history maker in being the first Irishwoman to play in the biennial match but as the rookie stalwart of the European team.

Prized asset

Maguire took to the biggest stage in women’s team golf seamlessly, becoming a mainstay of Catriona Matthew’s team. Nerves? They don’t exist, as she exhibited brilliant shot-making and putting in becoming a prized asset in Europe’s attempt to win for only the second time on US soil.

With blue yardage book tucked into her back pocket, her aim point sizing up of putts on the greens, her sunglasses hiding her eyes from the world, and only the occasional displays of emotion – “Let’s go!” she roared in sinking the winning putt in her foursomes win yesterday alongside Mel Reid over Nelly Korda and Austin Ernst – and fist pumping the air, this has been a Solheim Cup where Maguire has had an impact in a major way.

Through each of the first three sessions – foursomes, fourballs and foursomes - Maguire posted win after win after win and then, in yesterday’s fourballs, shouldered much of the weight (with Mel Reid having to receive on-course physio treatment for a shoulder-neck injury) in securing a halved point against Jennifer Kupcho and Lis Salas.

“That half almost seems like a win,” admitted Maguire of a match where a Reid birdie on the 18th enabled the pair to avoid defeat. Kupcho had chipped in for a birdie on the 17th to give the Americans a one-hole lead playing that finishing hole. Before that, it was Maguire who, time and time again, had been the strong woman in firing at flags and holing putts.

Maguire and Reid were in the last fourballs group on the course after an exhilarating day’s play, their halved match meaning that Europe carried a 9-7 lead into the final day’s 12 singles. And, again, Maguire – with three and a half points from her four matches – was commanding centre stage.

As Reid described Maguire’s arrival as a Solheim Cup player, “I’m just very, very impressed with her, honestly. That grit and determination is second to none. I mean, it’s been an honour playing with her the last few days.”

‘Fantastic’

Europe’s captain Matthew has used the word “fantastic” on numerous occasions through the match on the old Donald Ross course to describe Maguire’s performances.

In truth, the first two days’ play provided brilliant matchplay with Europe dominating Saturday’s opening two series of play and the United States, as expected, fighting their way back through yesterday’s foursomes and then fourballs.

“It has certainly been a roller-coaster, momentum going one way and then the other,” admitted Europe captain Matthew. “It’s very good we are bringing in that two points lead [into the singles] . . . . I think that halved point from Mel and Leona brings in a positive mood for the team going into the singles.”

In yesterday’s fourballs, Carlota Ciganda and Nanna Koerstz Madsen beat Jessica Korda and Megan Khang by one hole; Charley Hull and Emily Pedersen beat Danielle Kang and Austin Ernst 3 and 2; Celine Boutier and Sophia Popov lost to Yealimi Noh and Mina Harigae 3 and 1; while Maguire and Reid halved with Kupcho and Salas.

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