INTERVIEW

Leona Maguire labels historic Solheim Cup debut as 'highlight of my career so far'

by Ronan MacNamara

Leona Maguire might not have been expecting to make the 2021 European Solheim Cup team, admitting it was an “outside goal” at the start of the year but after stealing the show by winning a record 4.5 points from a possible five as a rookie, she described it as the highlight of her career.

The Cavan native earned rave reviews from opposing captain Pat Hurst as she singled Maguire out as one the US team has to watch out for over the next few years.

“The Solheim Cup is the highlight of my career so far,” Maguire said. “In the big moments where I needed to hole putts or pull those shots off, I did so that’s something I can take with me.

“It was a great showcase for women’s golf and it just happened to be my week. I got a taste of it and I would like to be back there in two years time.”

Shane Lowry has spoken about feeling fatigued post Ryder Cup after he left all his energy and emotions out on the golf course in Whistling Straits as Pádraig Harrington’s charges fell to a record-breaking defeat at the hands of Steve Stricker’s USA.

Maguire followed up her Solheim Cup heroics with a share of 34th at the Shoprite LPGA Classic before she missed just her third cut of the season at the Cognizant Founders Cup and her first since May.

While she experienced contrasting emotions to Lowry, the Slieve Russell ambassador admitted to feeling drained after the biennial event despite the euphoric highs from the week in Ohio.

“It definitely did take a lot out of me. You run on adrenaline for the week. You don’t really have time to think about how tired you are and with everything that came along after it, it was a rollercoaster few weeks.

“It was in the middle of a very busy stretch as well, we had two majors and the Olympics in the space of two months, that’s just the way it fell on the schedule.

“The big goals this year were qualifying for the majors and getting back into the CME Tour Championship. The main goal me and Shane said was to be in the top-40 on the CME so more than above did that.

“The Solheim Cup was an outside goal, and I obviously did that so overall, very happy with how the season went.”

Solheim Cup legend Suzann Pettersen was announced as the Team Europe captain for the 2023 Solheim Cup in Finca Cortesin, Spain.

The Norwegian has appeared in nine contests and come out on the winning side four times including holing the winning putt in 2019 at Gleneagles after an 18-month absence from the game.

Maguire has played with Pettersen before both in practice and in the Ladies Irish Open and admits that the two-time major champion is a hero of hers and being touched by her memory of their encounter in 2010.

“Suzanne was a big hero of mine growing up. It was my dream to be on a Solheim Cup team with her. She was someone I really looked up to, I admired her passion for the game and her competitiveness.

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Davy ambassador, Leona Maguire. Credit: Inpho

“Me and Lisa got to play a practice round with her in Killeen, we played nine holes with her in 2010 before our first Irish Open and I remember being quite intimidated by her and nervous but she couldn’t have been nicer.

“Then I got to play the first two rounds with her when she won, it was an incredible experience seeing her up close and then getting to watch her in the Solheim Cup. I remember walking inside the ropes with her mam and her family and it was the fourballs in the second evening she made a really great comeback.

“She was great as a vice captain in Toledo, always checking in on me and she was asking about Lisa and Shane. It meant a lot that she remembered way back when considering the amount of people she has played with and met over the years,” she added.

Driving distances are hot topic on the PGA Tour with driver shaft lengths to be limited to 46 inches while Bryson DeChambeau hit a 402 yard drive in ‘The Match’ vs Brooks Koepka last weekend.

Bombing drives and almighty digs out of thick and juicy rough are seldom seen on the LPGA Tour with a premium put on accuracy rather than distance as proved by Jin Young Ko’s 63 greens in a row at the CME Tour Championship.

Still, Maguire believes it won’t be long until we see a trailblazer in the ladies game.

“I’ll be shocked if someone doesn’t try. People are getting longer and the courses are getting longer all the time. If you look at Jin Young Ko and her green in reg stats, she finished with 63 greens in a row hit.

“So, I think what it takes to succeed on the PGA Tour and the LPGA Tour are slightly different. The guys can blast it as far as they can and have the strength to get the ball out of the rough whereas the ladies don’t.

“If someone finds the formula for hitting it long and straight, that will be very successful. There is still a premium on accuracy on the LPGA Tour.”

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