Not the day Leona Maguire was hoping for - but one to savour

‘I just didn’t hole enough putts. I had a lot of chances. I hit a lot of really good shots’

Ireland’s Leona Maguire during her first round at the Olympic Golf course. Photograph: David Davies/PA

Ireland’s Leona Maguire during her first round at the Olympic Golf course. Photograph: David Davies/PA

 

You can see them in the distance coming up the 18th fairway shimmering in the heat of the afternoon sun. Two green tops, white hats, Irish complexions. Today it is Lisa on the bag and Leona hitting the shots.

At the British Open a few weeks ago Lisa Maguire had a dry run as caddy in anticipation of the Olympics and helping her twin sister around the Rio track in soaring temperatures.

As kids the two were neck and neck and plundered all of the underage and senior amateur records in Ireland. But Leona is now the best amateur in the world and with Stephanie Meadow the Irish hopes in Rio.

The day and the round of golf, concedes Leona, could have been better. Her ball found the water at the 10th hole from the tee. A narrow ribbon of a fairway that curves around a lake with most players baling out to the right, her drive ran in.

A double bogey seven at 10 along with a couple of birdies at the first and 16th holes and also few bogeys on the card left her at +3 for the round. Meadow also took seven on the 10th.

It wasn’t the day she was hoping for. But it was a day to savour and learn from.

“It was a great experience. I would have liked to play a little bit better,” said Leona. “This sort of week is a bonus week for me. I try not to have too many expectations. Just play as well as I can and see what happens.

“I just didn’t hole enough putts. I had a lot of chances. I hit a lot of really good shots exactly where I wanted to hit. I had a bad hole on 10. Apart from that I played really solid all day.”

Playing with Brazil’s Miriam Nagl, who had the honour of hitting the opening tee shot at 7.30am and Malaysia’s Kelly, they were the first group out but were put on the clock from the third hole. That appears to have put a little bit more stress into their first Olympic outing.

“It would have been a little bit more enjoyable if we hadn’t been on the clock all day,” said Leona. “We were on the clock from the third hole. That wasn’t ideal. It’s easier when you are not on the clock.

“We enjoyed it out there. She (Lisa) was good. She did everything she needed to do. She was under a lot of pressure especially to keep up.”

In four years time at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the roles could be reversed or maybe the two will play. Lisa’s ambition has the Olympic Games pencilled in as one of those long term goals.

Her career in recent years has lagged behind that of her twin. Both at Duke University in North Carolina, Leona has been the number one in amateur golf for the past two years, while Lisa played in only three tournaments for Duke.

Leona is one of three amateurs to have qualified for the 60-player field, the first for women’s golf since 1900, when Margaret Abbott of the United States won the gold medal in Paris.

Bringing Lisa along wasn’t that difficult a choice to make. But it’s a twin sister’s prerogative only to listen when it suits her. She does listen, doesn’t she?

“On occasion,” says Lisa. “If she asks me I’ll tell her what I think so...I mean I know her game pretty well. She knows what she is doing out there. I’m just kind of out there for support.

“I’d love to be playing this week,” she adds. “Just hitting some of the shots she hits...Yeah Tokyo in four years time, I think so. For sure it would be anybody’s aim to make an Olympic Games. It’s definitely up there.

“I’m a better putter than Leona for sure. She probably strikes it better than I do off the tee right now. I’m trying to work on that, she’s trying to work on her putting ...we’re kind of opposites on the golf course.”

The two have captured their fair share of attention among a field of golfing stars all of them capable of shooting low numbers. Her +3 leaves her in the 40s as Inbee Park leads the field on -5.

There are a group of five players one shot behind the Korean on -4 with American Lexi Thompson T7 on -3. Meadow also had a tough day and finished her round six over par, which puts her down in the 50s.

But there’s no pressure on Leona.

“The best players in the world are here,” she says. “That’s their job. I’m just out there to have as much fun as I can and play as well as I can. That’s up to Lydia (Ko) and Brooke (Henderson) and Ariya (Jutanugarn) and those girls to try and put on as good a show as they can. They are the best players in the world...for me it’s just a bonus to play here.”

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