Irish Times/Sport Ireland sportswoman award for April: Leona Maguire
Cavan golfer just weeks from turning professional, and is closing out her amateur career on a high
Leona Maguire: at a tournament in Georgia in April she broke the Atlantic Coast Conference record for the most even or under-par rounds in a college career. Photograph: Kevin C Cox/Getty Images
The Irish Times/Sport Ireland sportswoman award for April: Leona Maguire (Golf).
When Duke University’s Twitter account was providing updates on Tuesday evening on Leona Maguire’s second round at the Madison regional of the NCAA Golf Championships they ended up opting to use those flame emojis. Maguire, not for the first time in her college career, was, after all, on fire.
Her 65, which included eight birdies, was the second lowest score in Duke NCAA (National Collegiate Athletic Association) regional history, and helped lift the team into first going into the final round, the prize for the top six teams a place in the national championships in Oklahoma later this month.
The 23-year-old from Cavan is now just weeks away from turning professional, but is closing out the amateur phase of her career on a high, making history back in February when she reached her 131st week as the number one player in the World Amateur rankings.
And in April Maguire went into overdrive when it came to record-breaking and awards-collecting.
At a tournament in Georgia she broke the all-time Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) record for the most even or under-par rounds in a college career. Later in the month she won the ACC Championship for the third time, which matched the all-time record, that form helping Duke seal the team title for the second year in a row. For that she was presented with the Duke University Lifetime Achievement Award.
The longer-term target is her card for the LPGA Tour where if she achieves even a fraction of the success she enjoyed in her amateur career, it will make for unmissable viewing
And then she broke the all-time record for the most ACC Golfer of the Month awards when she picked up her ninth, before being voted ACC Golfer of the Year for the third time in her career. And, for good measure, she made the All-ACC Team of the Year for the fourth time.
That’s a half decent month.
And while we had an outstanding list of contenders for our own sportswoman of the month for April – among them Katie Taylor, jockeys Rachael Blackmore and Nina Carberry and golfer Stephanie Meadow, who came back from injury to win her first tournament on the Symetra Tour (just one rung short of the LPGA tour) – Maguire’s run of success ensured she has another award for her collection.
She and her twin sister Lisa are scheduled to play in next Tuesday’s sectional qualifying for the US Open at Bermuda Run Country Club in North Carolina. Should she qualify she would then make her professional debut at the major at Shoal Creek, Alabama (May 31st - June 3th).
She already has her card for the Symetra Tour, her intention being to get going on that as soon as possible, while also taking up any LPGA Tour invitations that come her way. The longer-term target, of course, is her card for the LPGA Tour where if she achieves even a fraction of the success she enjoyed in her amateur career, it will make for unmissable viewing.
PREVIOUS MONTHLY WINNERS
Monthly winners (awards run from December 2017 to November 2018, inclusive):
December: Fiona McHale (Gaelic football). McHale was the driving force behind Carnacon’s victory over Mourneabbey in the All-Ireland Club final, the Mayo midfielder earning the player of the match award for her performance in a 0-15 to 1-10 win at Parnell Park.
January: Phil Healy (athletics). The Cork woman had an encouraging start to the indoor season when she knocked over a second off her 400m personal best by running 52.08 at a meeting in Vienna in what was her first race of the year. Her performance earned her European Athletics’ “Female Athlete of the Month” award.
February: Cora Staunton (Australian Rules). Her Australian Football League adventure might not have ended as she would have hoped, the Greater Western Sydney Giants just missing out on a place in the Grand Final, but Staunton still made a major impact during the season in a sport she had only taken up months before.
March: Katie Walsh (horse racing). First she rode her third Cheltenham winner, then she was one of just 12 finishers in the Aintree Grand National (on board Baie Des Iles, trained by her husband Ross O’Sullivan). Then in April she rode another winner at Punchestown after which she announced her retirement. A dizzying spell at the end of a wonderful career.