Leona Maguire keeps making the extraordinary ordinary

Tokyo is next step for Cavan golfer who is enjoying a stellar season

Leona Maguire    during the third round of the Marathon LPGA Classic  at Highland Meadows Golf Club in Sylvania, Ohio,  on July 10th. Photograph: Jorge Lemus/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Leona Maguire during the third round of the Marathon LPGA Classic at Highland Meadows Golf Club in Sylvania, Ohio, on July 10th. Photograph: Jorge Lemus/NurPhoto via Getty Images

 

In Highland Meadows Golf Club in Sylvania, Ohio, Leona Maguire hops on Zoom after a stellar few weeks which saw her have five top-10 finishes, numerous top-20 finishes and officially put her name down as one to watch. Sitting in her hotel room preparing for the Pro-Am for the Marathon Classic, we discuss the crazy journey golf has taken her on so far.

“It’s been great. I’ve had, obviously, a few great results. You don’t really have time to dwell too much. It’s kind of on to the next, and on to the next one. You try to build on that moment from week to week, and then rest or recover as quickly as you can and go at it again.

“I suppose going from San Francisco to Meijer up in Michigan, then to the Women’s PGA Championship, I think adrenaline takes over a little bit. You don’t realise how tired you are. Definitely it’s a trade-off between, ‘I haven’t been to any of these golf courses, I have to learn the golf course, I have to get ready’, but at the same time you have to take it a bit more handy and make sure you’re rested up come Thursday, Friday and then for the weekend as well.

“It’s just balancing that out, and, I suppose, listening to my team around me to go, ‘Yes, hang on a second here. Do you really need to be doing that this week’?”

Maguire admits to taking the last week off, a trip to Dallas for the Volunteers of America Texas Shootout, but she used her time off wisely to rest up, re-energise and fix what she deems necessary to progress through the LPGA Tour.

Ball flight

“My irons were a great strength of mine when I was in college, it went off a little bit for me, and Shane [O’Grady)] worked on that quite a bit. This winter we changed my irons set. We changed the shaft sets. I got a lot more neutral ball flight again, and it’s about giving yourself as many birdie opportunities as possibly.

“Then on the day, how many putts can you hold? I spent a lot of time with that, my green reads, and all of that. Every bit of that helps to try and maybe push yourself higher up the leaderboard every week.”

Along with Maguire’s rapid rise in the golf world, the LPGA has also experienced a surge in popularity. With that surge comes new eyes, attention and varied opinions about the women’s game. In fact Maguire thinks people are taken aback when it comes to reactions.

“I think a lot of people are surprised when they watch us play. I think they’re surprised by the skill level. Like you said, people sometimes equate the men’s game with the power to try to hit it, and they find that entertaining. I know that is, and then it’s cool to see Rory and Bryson, and all those guys hit it as far and as fast as they do.

“It’s very impressive. It’s something that the average person is never ever going to do, which is impressive in itself. People enjoy watching that, but at the same time people in our Pro-Am, people who come to watch our events, they’re taken aback a little bit by the skill level, how straight we hit it, how we shape shots around the green, putting, all of that.

“I suppose that’s the bread and butter of the LPGA. If you give an LPGA player a shot inside 100 yards it’s very impressive what some of these girls can do, and Inbee Park made a career on it, not the longest player in the world by any means, but she’s won about seven or eight majors, an Olympic gold medal and has been so dominant on the LPGA because she hardly misses a putt.

“She hits it arrow straight. Her shots are incredible. There’s a lot of other girls like that out here as well, and that’s where the LPGA, I think, holds its own.”

Passionate

Reflecting back on her incredible career so far, you can hear just how passionate Maguire is when it comes to getting women and girls involved in golf. We are both perplexed at why there’s no Women’s Irish Open, but Covid has reintroduced people back into the sport.

“You can social distance, all of that, and you get an exercise, you get an enjoyment, all of that. I know I have friends that never in a million years would’ve planned to play golf, and then they were texting me, or whatever, ‘do you have spare this? Do you have spare shoes? Do you have spare gloves? Do you have a spare bag?’ All of this.

“They never would’ve dreamed of playing golf, but now they’re sort of getting into it, and they’re getting the golf buggies, going to the driving range or going out for a few holes in the evening if it’s after work or the weekend or whatever it is.

“That’s what the big thing is, is when you’re young, to enjoy it. If you enjoy it you’ll spend more time. You keep coming back. That’s the beauty of golf. No matter how bad you play, there’s always one shot that makes you coming back the next day and the next day to try to get better.”

The Olympics are just around the corner, and Tokyo is looming. Maguire still has a few tournaments to go but is looking forward to playing golf in Asia, especially where women’s golf is dominant.

“The cool part for me about Rio, a lot of people tuned into golf at the Olympics, probably usually wouldn’t have, just because it was on telly and it was part of something bigger. So that definitely brought golf to maybe a newer audience back home.

“I felt the encouragement and the support from everybody at home over the past few weeks, people tuning in, trying to find the golf somewhere on someone’s telly, who had the coverage, who had a link, whatever it was, that’s great for me, and I know Stephanie as well.

Moving up

“When we were growing up there was no one on the LPGA, there are a few girls on the LET, but there was no one that had gone to the LPGA. At the minute I suppose it’s not enough probably for me just to be on the LPGA. I want to show people that you can do well on the LPGA, you can hopefully win on the LPGA and all of these things.

“It’s just a case of moving up all of those steps and, yes, for showing young people in Ireland that if a girl from Cavan can do it, well they can do it too.

“And it’s not easy. It obviously takes a lot of hard work and a lot of time, and I’ve had a lot of help along the way. But, yes, hopefully, I suppose we can have an Irish Open back to Ireland in a few years. I think that would help things as well.”

All eyes will be on the girl from Cavan to make the extraordinary, ordinary.

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