Solheim Cup: Leona Maguire confirms status as the best rookie of all time

26-year-old beats Jennifer Kupcho 5 and 4 to reach a record points haul of four and a half

Leona Maguire beat Jennifer Kupcho five and four to secure a record points haul for a rookie at the Solheim Cup. Photograph: David Dermer/AP

Leona Maguire beat Jennifer Kupcho five and four to secure a record points haul for a rookie at the Solheim Cup. Photograph: David Dermer/AP

 

The secret is out, on a global stage. We’ve known all about Leona Maguire for years - from being a teenage phenomenon, right through her college years to a seamless move onto the LPGA Tour - but, now, the world is only too aware of the 26-year-old Cavan woman who stole the show in her debut appearance at the 17th edition of the Solheim Cup in Toledo, Ohio.

The horse-shoe stand around the first and 10th tee complex blasted out music and even had Bubba Watson singing like a Karaoke wannabe to make for a giddy atmosphere of anticipation. Maguire, though, was in her own world, focused and providing a double fist bump to Europe’s captain Catriona Matthew.

In the third match off of the 12 singles, Maguire was first to finish after a comprehensive 5 and 4 victory over Jennifer Kupcho, previously unbeaten but put in her place on this occasion by Europe’s standout player.

On completing her task, Maguire allowed a smile to crease her face, before offering a hug to the vanquished Kupcho and then raising both arms into the air and allowing herself to soak in the polite, modest applause from the mainly American spectators who, through the 14 holes, had been given little opportunity to cheer on Kupcho as Irishwoman’s shot-making and her brilliance with putter in hand turned it into a one player show.

Kupcho is ranked 28th in the world; Maguire is 45th. In all truth, those rankings tell a lie. Maguire’s upward trending this year has been spectacular - including two runner-up finishes on the LPGA Tour - and, in her debut appearance in the Solheim Cup, her singles win took her total to four and a half points from five matches.

Leona Maguire celebrates her singles victory with her sister Lisa. Photograph: David Dermer/AP
Leona Maguire celebrates her singles victory with her sister Lisa. Photograph: David Dermer/AP

The only player, from either team, to play all five sessions, Maguire’s confidence levels from her unbeaten and dominant sessions in foursomes and fourballs was brought into singles fare. It is where she thrives, in control of her own shots and assured with Ping putter in hand. Kupcho didn’t have a chance.

Maguire took control on the second hole, rolling in an eagle putt to go one up. It was all one way traffic from there. Maguire hardly put a foot wrong. Indeed, her run from the second brought a sequence of eagle-par-birdie-par-birdie-birdie. On leaving the seventh green, Maguire was four up and Kupcho had the look of someone not quite believing what was happening to her.

Still four up at the turn, Maguire - a steely matchplay competitor dating back to her Curtis Cup days - maintained the grip. By avoiding any mistakes, the onus was placed on Kupcho to be aggressive in attempting to play catch-up. Maguire kept her at arms’ length with a string of pars for halved holes from the 10th and, then, on the Par 4 14th she went for the kill and rolled in her fourth birdie putt of the rout to complete what she’d set out to do.

“I just tried to get off to a really good start, and then that eagle on two, that’s a pretty good start, and I hit it really solid. I just wanted to put pressure on Jen from the get-go. She’s a phenomenal player; we’ve played many times before, and I knew I’d have to have my A-game today, and luckily there was still some energy left in my legs and I was able to get it done,” said Maguire.

In one of the most impressive performances by a rookie in the history of the event, Maguire gave credit to her caddie Dermot Byrne, who was on Shane Lowry’s bag for many years: “Dermot has been a tremendous help to me, been my caddie since (the Mediheal in June), and he was a huge part of this week, keeping me calm, keeping me focused, hitting the right shots at the right moments.

“And I had two phenomenal partners in Mel (Reid) and Georgia (Hall), as well, that just let me do my thing . . . and I’m just so proud.”

In this case, pride is no sin.

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